EDDC’s Audit and Governance agenda and papers: risk, it’s no big deal

21 Jun

Audit: an official examination and verification of accounts and records, especially of financial account

Governance: exercise ofd authority; control

The agenda for this month’s Audit and Governance Committee meeting (27 June 2013, Knowe, 2.30 pm)

concerns itself with risk.  Helpfully, there is a chart with the colours on them and risks scored 0 – 16, with 16 being the highest risk to be encountered at EDDC.   Risks are scored as high (red, 12+) medium (amber 6+) or low (gree 1+n).

On page 42 of the papers it states:

There are two risks which are currently scored as high risk: Failure to manage the Council’s reputation through engagement with the press – Impact: Serious Likelihood: Very Likely

Perceived reputation of the service by local community causes preventable demand through complaints – Impact: Major Likelihood: Very likely

This risk has been re-scored in light of the recent events in relation to former CllrGraham Brown which will have implications for our reputation in the future. Hisactions however are considered to be a one off with a limited risk of a repeat.

Well, that’s a relief!

Moving on:

Each department is given a “Pure” status for risk (again 1-16) and then risk within a department is analysed.  Interestingly, even departments with a high “pure” risk mainly showa consistently green low risk status, presumably showing that no matter how risky the situation, it is under control.  For example, failure of a major contractor is shown as high risk (12) but the analysis shows a green risk as it assumes the tender selection process is low risk!  Financial planning is also shown as “Red 12” but contains only green analyses because it is deemed to be working well.  Who makes the decision about whether something is working well or not?  The head of that department ….. .  And so it goes on – departments have a high risk figure but a low risk analysis.  So, we should be pleased about that, although it must be said that risk analysis scenarios were created in 2009 and an awful lot has changed since then so it might just be time for some new headings!

Some highlights:

The first amber comes on page 51 of the agenda: the risk that the “transformation team” might not be effective.  This is the team that concerns itself with “Systems Thinking” (look that up on the web!).

Failure of councillors to keep to their code of conduct is shown as medium risk amber (9).  More about that later.

Page 53 tells us that the risk of change to the economic climate is high (16) but all is well because the Leader and the CEO have a regular dialogue and the “Service Delivery and Performance Committee” (sorry, what – never heard of it – where are their agendas and minutes? the only mention I can find of them in EDDC website is in 2009) scrutinises everything, they look for opportunities to share with other authorities (remember South Somerset?) and “Systems Thinking” means they are always on the ball.  Perhaps the “Service Delivery and Performance Committee” is meant to be the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (only a guess) in which case one big risk is that EDDC doesn’t keep up with itself!

And so it goes on – red risks, green outcomes.  5 year land supply is shown as Risk 12 (when surely it should be risk 100+?) with some very interesting comments (page 55).

Page 57 reiterates that officers and councillors still want to move from the Knowle and will do everything they can to facilitate it.

Page 77 confirms that the move to share IT services with Teignmouth and Plymouth is moving ahead but this is considered only a medium risk.

Page 80 says that failure to support ethical governance and standards at town and parish councils is medium risk and that one of the safeguards is that publicity and resource material is available from Standards for England – which was abolished in March 2012.

Failure to manage (stet) the council’s reputation(page 84) is deemed a 12 (again, surely a 100+) where it says that “resources are insufficient” (!) and an “additional resource” is needed.  Ah, your money and mine there.

Failure to ensure community engagement is a 16 (page 84) (no surprise there) but worry not – they have a policy and a toolkit to deal with this!

Failure to adopt the Local Plan by the end of 2014 is fortunately for us amber, though the comment does say “this could result in development in an unplanned fashion”.  But don’t worry, that isn’t high risk.  Er …..

There is more but I have to go and lie down in a darkened room now.



3 Responses to “EDDC’s Audit and Governance agenda and papers: risk, it’s no big deal”

  1. Medusa June 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    Does Marker have no comment here!

  2. hibou June 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Classic public sector response – the pure risk is high, but don’t worry we’re so good that it’s all under control so that the actual risk is low. There, that’s sorted – no evidence required, just me to say that my department is excellent. No worries because no-one in the public sector will question me. And the general public don’t count so they can question all they like and we don’t care, the bosses have to support us or they look foolish.

  3. True Blue June 24, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Systems Thinking is a management tool proposed by Peter Checkland in the early 1980s. Fundamental to this way of looking at complex management issues is a “Stakeholder Analysis”. Think of stakeholders (councillors, officials, Business Forum members, ratepayers etc) as: Actors (those who create activity); Owners (those responsible for this activity) and Customers (victims or beneficiaries), all with a different “world view”. I’m afraid you have to get used to the jargon. By drawing diagrams, such as Venn diagrams, of who participates in various council activities and on what basis, advocates of this technique claim much will be revealed. It would certainly show who had a finger in which pie and this technique might even help the Police with their enquiries. It might also show ratepayers emerging as non participating victims from many “activities”! Like all management techniques it fails when objectives become confused e.g. when reputational management in the NHS overrides patient care (could this happen in EDDC?). Thatcherite (conservative) orthodoxy, on the other hand, would claim that the only thing that matters is the customer (ratepayer) supplier (council) relationship, an oversimplification certainly but one not to lose sight of. What is the political colour of our council?

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