What do you prefer: substantial or reasonable assurances that our council is following proper procedures?

5 Nov

The long-awaited report on corporate governance has now been published as part of the agenda for the next Audit and Governance Committee postponed to 14 November 2013, papers here

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/combined_agenda_141113.pdf

As anticipated, it is not quite the glowing report of “robust” good health that we might have anticipated.  PLUS it only looks at whether current procedures were followed, not whether those procedures are sufficient.

Firstly, the auditors can offer only “reasonable” assurance that procedures have been followed.  They define “reasonable” as

  • I am able to offer reasonable assurance as most of the areas reviewed were found to be adequately controlled. Generally risks are well managed but some systems require the introduction or improvement of internal controls to ensure the achievement of objectives.
  • Contrast this with “substantial” assurance definition:I am able to offer substantial assurance as the areas reviewed were found to be adequately controlled. Internal controls are in place and operating effectively and risks against the achievement of objectives are well managed. 

Some highlighted paragraphs from the (very short) report:

On 22nd May 2013, the Annual Council agreed the recommended changes to the Constitution, as outlined in appendix C of the Chief Executive’s report. This reflected legislative changes and decisions the Council makes about its own processes. To date the version of the Constitution published on the internet has not been updated to reflect the recommended changes. However, the Corporate Legal and Democratic Services Manager keeps the internal working copy of the Constitution up to date and regularly advises members and officers as needed. 

[Question: why not updated, this means that the public was reading the wrong version]

Councillors are invited to a Personal Development Review (PDR) each time they are elected and every year thereafter. Although a summary list was maintained stating those Councillors who had received PDRs in 2011, this has not been done for 2012 and 2013.

The Democratic Services Manager has confirmed Councillors were invited on two occasions to discuss their PDRs, however there was limited up-take. As such not all of the PDRs are up-to- date, however this does not give her concern as the Councillors needs are being met and they haven’t raised any issues.

[Question: why, in the light of the Graham Brown debacle is such training voluntary and not mandatory]

One set of agendas and minutes from each of the nine committees were reviewed to determine: whether the participants could be identified; the date and location confirmed and the decision making process was clear.

Testing established that out of the nine committee agendas and minutes reviewed, four (Council – May 2013, Cabinet – June 2013, Development Management – May 2013 and Housing Review Board – 09/05/13) did not state the names of the Councillors who were due to attend.

If the names of Councillors are not stated on the agendas, it may not be apparent to the reader whether members have an interest in a particular agenda item which needs to be declared.

[THIS IS “ROBUST”? !!!!!]

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