Report by the Chief Finance Officer
38.1 The Committee considered a report by the Chief Finance Officer, which presented the External Auditor’s report on the County Council’s Value for Money arrangements.
38.2 The Committee discussed:
38.2.1 The recommendation to consider the Audit Committee carrying out a self-assessment of the effectiveness of the Committee, as per guidance issued by the National Audit Office (NAO).
38.2.2 The recommendation to consider mapping of strategic risks against the Council’s strategic priorities.
38.2.3 The possibility of including climate change impact and an emissions reduction target within the Value for Money assessment.
38.2.4 The consideration of unexpected potential impacts to financial sustainability such as extreme weather events and sudden increase of refugees requiring support within the County.
38.2.5 The lessons learnt regarding the operation of Orbis, the joint service for Procurement, IT & Digital and Internal Audit with Brighton and Hove City Council and Surrey County Council.
38.2.6 The procurement process in terms of Value for Money.
38.3 In response:
38.3.1 The Chief Finance Officer advised that the self-assessment for Audit Committee would be considered along with other recommendations arising from the Redmond Review; ideas as to how to undertake the assessment will be explored.
38.3.2 The Chief Finance Officer explained that strategic risks are reported in a way that covers the spectrum of the Council’s strategic priorities. Since many risks span more than one priority, mapping is unlikely to show clear links between risks and priorities.
38.3.3 The Chief Finance Officer explained that the County Council has a reporting requirement for audit and accounting which currently does not include climate change impact and emissions reduction targets. It was noted a requirement to assess climate change impact and emissions reduction may be included in future Value for Money assessments if decided by Central Government.
38.3.4 The Chief Finance Officer explained that the Council has an Emergency Planning Team, reserves and insurance in place to mitigate risk in the event of unexpected events such as extreme weather.
38.3.5 The Chief Operating Officer explained that there is ongoing work to review the shared service arrangements following a review which concluded that IT, procurement and internal audit functions were working well within Orbis however some functions such as business administration services have returned to operate within East Sussex County Council. It was noted that the Council will continue to review and improve arrangements within the Business Services department.
38.3.6 Darren Wells explained that from an external audit perspective, the Value for Money assessment looks at wider strategic themes and does not drill down into more specific scope such as individual procurement processes for contracts. The Chief Operating Officer noted that each procurement process is individual to the contract and incorporates a variety of approaches depending on the market, objectives, price and quality. The Chief Operating Officer noted that all procurement processes adhere to public procurement regulations. It was noted that Place Scrutiny have recently commenced a review to look at social value and buying locally within the Council’s procurement.
38.4 The Committee RESOLVED to note the report.