To consider and accept the report
To accept the annual report in accordance with the requirements of the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards for the 2021/22 financial year.
Submitted - the report of the Audit Manager, expressing Internal Audit's opinion of the overall control environment within the Authority during 2020/21 providing the said annual internal audit opinion to the Authority. It was noted that assurance can never be absolute, and the most that the internal audit service could provide to the Council was a reasonable assurance that there were no major weaknesses in the whole system of internal control.
It was reported that Covid-19 had a significant impact on the Authority as a whole and on the work of Internal Audit and as the majority of the Council's services the Internal Audit officers worked from home. It had not been possible to conduct an audit where it was necessary to visit the organisation due to the Welsh Government guidelines and restrictions. It was stated that Internal Audit had assisted the Test, Trace and Protect Service, a service launched by the Welsh Government and a total of 98.57 days had been spent on this work. Furthermore, officers had also assisted the Benefits Service in dealing with the processing of Self-isolation Payments due to the increase in the number of cases in Gwynedd at the end of 2021 and early 2022 (a total of 96.77 days had been spent on this work).
New audit priorities had been identified in response to the new risks as a result of the impact of Covid-19. These audits were completed during a challenging period with the focus of the audits being on the arrangements as a result of the pandemic and statutory audits such as grants. A limited number of audits had been conducted during 2021/2022 compared to the previous years and this was due to unprecedented and uncommon circumstances. This was considered to be an exception again this year and evidence provided by external regulators was used to support the opinion for the year. On the basis of Internal Audit work completed during 2020/2021, it was concluded that Gwynedd Council's internal control framework during the financial year 2020/2021 had operated at a level which provided reasonable assurance on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Authority's framework of governance, risk management and internal control.
A total of 42 assignments were contained in the revised audit plan for 2021/2022 with 30 (71.43% of the plan) completed by 31 March 2022. For the purposes of this measure, an assignment was counted as being completed when the final report/memorandum had been released or, if there was no report/memorandum, the assignment had been closed and no further time was expected to be spent on it - the performance ambition was 95%.
Reference was made to the list of audits from the 2021/2022 plan that had contributed to the opinion expressed.
Thanks were expressed for the report.
In response to a question regarding access to services, the willingness of officers to collaborate in the last two years was noted, however, it was intended to re-visit some schemes. Although Covid-19 may have been used as an excuse for some officers not to work together, this was very rare.
The report was accepted in accordance with the requirements of the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards for the 2021/22 financial year.