Review of Local Authority Searches, Housing Compliance. Income and Banking and Continuous Assurance have been undertaken at South Kesteven District Council as part of the approved internal audit periodic plan for 2021/22.
A report was presented to the Committee by Internal Auditors, RSM, following completion of a review of; Local Authority Searches, Housing Compliance, Income and Banking and Continuous Assurance, as part of the approved internal audit periodic plan for 2021/22.
The Auditor confirmed five reports had been finalised since the Committee last met.
The review of Local Authority Searches was largely positive, actions had been taken to improve the service delivery turnaround time. Six of the ten Searches sampled were completed within a timeframe of 22 days. There was no clear audit trail on some Searches, when documenting registration and the Authority was found to have no formal Land Charges Policy in place.
The Auditor paused for questions at which point the following points were raised:
· Clarification was requested as to why issues had still been identified as the previous Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, confirmed these issues were largely resolved.
The Auditor clarified that the report findings were made prior to the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, a significant improvement had been made since that time, which showed an average reduction in Searches times to between 2 and 4 days.
· A Member asked for clarification as to why the Committee had received two copies of the report, a revised version had been included within the supplement.
The Committee was informed that an incorrect job title had been included within the original agenda pack, that had been amended to reflect the correct post and was circulated within the agenda supplement. t was requested that it be noted to Members where changes had been made to documents for the changes to be easily identified.
· Why had the Authority’s timescale for completing Searches been 22 days, when the Government’s target turnaround was 10 days.
The current position indicated a less than 5 days as a turnaround period. Continuous improvement was being made due to temporary increased resources. Processes and procedures had been fully reviewed, including consultations with a neighbouring Authority. A reduction in demand had also contributed to the improvement in turnaround times.
· What continuing gaps were there within the Housing Services Compliance framework and what was being done to improve standards.
Practices had been significantly strengthened, fire risk assessments, legionella prevention and asbestos safeguarding were 100% compliant and that fire door checks were underway. Additional support was being considered within these programmes through IT support and senior officer participation. Gas checks were largely complete and electrical testing was being undertaken by contractors. The electrical testing had been significantly delayed by the pandemic, as time within residential homes for tradesmen had been restricted by the Government, during the lockdown periods.
· A management report on the ‘Propeller’ system was requested, what progress had been made since it was implemented in July 2021.
Available findings of the strengths of ‘Propeller’ would be shared at subsequent meetings, some information would be prepared for the 22 December 2021 Committee meeting.
· What the Authority’s current status was with the Housing Regulator?
It was confirmed that the Authority had been described by the Regulator as “making a mammoth achievement so far”. It was further acknowledged that Improvement Plan updates were readily available, as it was important that the status be known.
· Could Members expect to receive training on the use of Propeller, so they could access live information.
The Committee were informed that Members were to receive training after the completion of officer training.
(The Chairman called a short recess at14:53, reconvening the meeting at 15:09)
Members continued to discuss the Continuous Assurance report, as follows:
· What was the Authority’s process for raising purchase orders?
An Officer informed the Committee that purchase orders were raised by individual departments, not centrally. The process was an organisational responsibility and invoices would only be paid upon receipt of a valid purchase order, Senior Finance Officers were working towards a list of suppliers where no purchase order would be required, so to ensure a more efficient process, which was required in some circumstances.
· What was the process when officers left the Council’s employment?
The Assistant Director of Finance was working with the Deputy Chief Executive to update current processes. Currently Human Resources would communicate when an officer had left the employment of the Council, to ensure that access to ICT and the Council offices were deactivated.
That the Governance and Audit Committee noted the Internal Audit Progress Report.