Prior to the meeting, and further to the last meeting (Audit Min. No. 30/19 refers) Committee members received a Briefing from the Finance Director (FD) on the revised College Board Assurance Framework, Risk Ratings and Appetite for Risk, as agreed and approved by Board (Board Min. No. 65/19 refers) . The FD explained the basis of the new format which now incorporated as assessment of probability in addition to the RAG rating previously used.
01/20. Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest.
02/20. Draft Minutes of the Meeting Held 27 November 2019 (Appendix No. 3)
The Minutes of the meeting held on 27 November 2019, were agreed as a true record.
03/10. Internal Audit Reports (Appendices Nos. 5a & 5b)
Ms Parkes presented the following reports –
Assurance Review of GDPR Compliance (previously circulated)
Further to Committee Minute 26/19, the Committee received an updated report, providing clarification on the recommendations and management controls agreed.
The review had assessed compliance with the key [EU] GDPR elements and had concluded that the College could provide evidence that it was moving towards compliance with the GDPR, however, some areas required additional work to increase compliance and thus had Reasonable Assurance. The FD provided assurance that the College had a clear CCTV Policy and that GDPR Impact Assessments would be completed by the required implementation date.
The Committee again discussed the appropriateness of the appointment of the Group Vice Principal – Information & Strategic Development as Data Protection Officer to ensure that there was no conflict of interest. The Clerk confirmed that the Group Vice Principal was required to submit an Annual Declaration of Interests as a member of the Senior Leadership Team and as an Authorised Signatory. The Committee were assured that the College had alternative arrangements should a personal conflict of interest arise.
That the report be noted.
Compliance Review of Sub-Contractor Controls (previously circulated)
The review had assessed and confirmed the College’s sub-contracting arrangements. The Committee noted with pleasure that the College has good arrangements in place to manage and monitor its subcontracted provision.
- The College undertook regular risk management profiles for each provider;
- Signed contracts and contract addendums were held for all current providers and thus had Substantial Assurance.
The Committee acknowledged that the College only sub-contracted with partners who provided value to students and employers.
The Committee noted that the Sub-Contractor Management Policy would be updated to reflect current practice that the Group Vice Principal – Information & Strategic Development (GVP – I&SD) is required to sign the Approval Checklist, prior to approval of the Policy by Board.
That the report be noted.
04/20. Annual Value For Money Report (Appendix No. 6)
In accordance with the Committee’s Terms of Reference to advise the governing body on the effectiveness of the College’s systems of internal control and its arrangements for risk management, control and governance processes and securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness (value for money), the Committee considered the Annual Value for Money (VFM) Report. The Committee’s Annual Report to Board would also include reference to value for money.
The Committee considered how the College continued to ensure it delivered VFM and agreed that there were sufficient robust sources of assurance presented to Board members to meet the requirement of the financial memorandum that the Corporation of the College is responsible for delivering value for money from public funds (Regulation 13.6).
That the report be noted.
05/20. Risk Register 2019 – 2020 (Appendix No. 7)
As recommended by the Committee (Audit Committee Min. No. 30/19 refers) at its previous meeting, the format of the Risk Register has been revised in line with the proposals subsequently approved by Board (Board Min. No. 65/19 refers) to incorporate a new set of definitions and working methodology.
The Committee agreed that the revised format provided a robust mechanism to assess risk probability and mitigate and manage risks. The Finance Director explained the risks identified and mitigating actions being undertaken. The Committee concluded that it considered the risks to have been appropriately identified and the management actions reported were effectively mitigating these risks.
The Committee recognised that the fast-evolving risks relating to the Covid-19 infection were now rated as the most significant risks facing the College and challenged the definition of this risk as while focused on the threat to the College’s integrity, it did not in the Committee’s view also reflect the risk to student’s learning. The FD suggested that an additional risk be added to reflect the risk that the College did not effectively mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on students’ learning and this risk should be reviewed by the Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee; this was accepted. The FD was also requested to reassess the impact of the risk of industrial action in light of Covid-19.
The Committee, having considered a presentation on the new format from the FD prior to the meeting, reviewed the revised format and
Resolved: That it be recommended to Board that the revised Risk Register 2019 – 2020, be approved; and that the following reporting conventions be established going forward –
- the Board shall receive for consideration those specific risks it or SLT has have identified as requiring Board review, and, in addition, any other risks considered by Committees where the current risk level is considered greater than the risk appetite;
- Board Committees shall receive for consideration all risks they have been requested to consider, (including those where the current risk level is within the risk appetite). In reviewing these risks Board Committees shall also confirm or amend their risk appetite; and
- going forward, the Audit Committee shall receive for consideration all risks on the Register.
ACTION: REPORT TO BOARD
06/20. Audit Recommendation Tracking Report (Appendix No. 8)
The Committee reviewed and noted the Audit Recommendation Tracking Report (previously circulated).
The FD reported that the recommendation to devise a weekly cash sheet to be completed at all income receiving locations across the College was under review. The Committee requested an update on the progress of the recommendation to develop a process to authenticate the validity of new suppliers (Item 3.6) and any an update on IR35 compliance activities (Item 3.3) be brought to the next meeting.
The Committee also agreed that, going forward, any changes made to recommendations rated as currently not on target but action in place to meet target, be made clear to the Committee in the Management Response and Updates section of the report.
That the report be noted.
07/20. Irregularity and Fraud
08/20. Urgent Item of Business – Report of Independent Review of College’s Safeguarding Arrangements
In accordance with Standing Order No. 19, the Principal/CEO provided a verbal update.
Following the OFSTED Inspection conducted in November 2019, the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) had required the College to contract an independent safeguarding consultant (Shropshire Safeguarding Partnership) to review and assess the College’s safeguarding procedures and produce a report.
This review had been conducted and the independent consultant’s report, which had been circulated to all governors, had concluded that the College had robust safeguarding procedures in place and was a safe place for staff and students. The Committee welcomed this as an excellent outcome and endorsement of the College’s safeguarding practices and expressed its support for the College’s Safeguarding Team.
The Committee enquired if the report had reviewed processes solely. The Principal/CEO explained that the review had examined all areas in the OFSTED Framework which included culture. The report had included three recommendations which had been accepted by the College and the Board would monitor progress against them.
The Committee agreed that, as it had reviewed thoroughly the revised Risk Register 2019 – 2020 and had recommended that, going forward, it would receive the complete Register, it would no longer need to consider separately specific risks which fell solely within its remit.
The Principal/CEO provided a verbal update on the College’s response to the Government’s announcement, made during the meeting, that all schools and colleges would close after 20 March 2020, to all students unless those designated as vulnerable or the children of key workers, as a measure to limit the spread of the Covid-19 infection. He explained that the College would contact each eligible student and make preparations for those students likely to attend College from 23 March 2020. The College had plans in place to support students, apprentices and staff through remote learning and working. Examinations scheduled for the summer had been cancelled with details to follow.
The Committee asked how the closure of the College would affect the College’s status as being in Intervention. The Principal/CEO was seeking clarification on the position of the Education & Skills Funding Authority (ESFA) and the Further Education Commissioner. In guidance issued by the Department of Education, any college likely to face financial difficulties as a result of the escalating effect of Covid-19, was advised to contact the ESFA at the earliest opportunity.
The Committee recognised the challenges facing the College, Senior Leadership Team, staff and students at this uncertain time and expressed its full support on behalf of the Board.
08/20. Date of Next Meeting – Wednesday, 10 June 2020 from 6.00 p.m. – venue to be confirmed.
The meeting concluded at 7.00 p.m.