Pre-Audit Committee Presentation by Group Vice-Principal, Curriculum Support and Business Development
5.15 p.m. – 6.00 p.m.
HELD BY REMOTE ACCESS THROUGH MICROSOFT TEAMS
In attendance by electronic device
A. Allen, G. Channon, C. Davies, C. Gore, J. Harry, H. Hawksworth, R. Lopez, N. Merchant, R. Sartain, J. Staniforth (Principal/CEO), M. Thompson, P. Tucker, M. Willmot, R. Wilson and M. Wood.
In attendance by electronic device
Members of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT):
C. Armstrong, Group Vice Principal, Curriculum Support and Business Development (GVP – CS&BD)
P. Partridge – Finance Director (FD)
By invitation by electronic device as part of Induction
G. Mills – Finance & Business Operations Committee Co-Opted
C. Sharp – Finance & Business Operations Committee Co-Opted Member
Clerk to the Board – T. Cottee
R. Heath, K. Quant and C. Wassall.
Prior to the meeting of the Audit Committee, the Group Vice-Principal, Curriculum Support and Business Development (GVP – CS&BD) gave a detailed presentation to the Audit Committee members and other invited governors on the risk management of Safeguarding with particular reference to post-inspection actions and the partial closure of the College as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The GVP provided the context that:
- The number of students requiring support was increasing;
- There was a changing profile of students with mental health issues;
- The mental health issues were becoming more significant;
- The number of Looked After Young People were increasing, with more complex cases;
The Board received a Summary of Actions taken during 2019-20, to reduce risk and shared the College’s Safeguarding Risk Register and the controls and actions being taken to mitigate and manage the identified risks including –
- the reorganisation of the Student Support and Tutor Team for the delivery of tutorial and pastoral support. This was also being supported by further safeguarding staffing resource at English Bridge and Welsh Bridge campuses.
- The appointment of two Health and Well Being Practitioners across all campuses to provide positive wellbeing support for applicants in transition to College and students.
- The ALS Team had been reorganised with further specialist staffing ensure that students with SEND have improved access to specialist support.
11/20. Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest.
10/20. Draft Minutes of the Meeting Held 18 March 2020 (Appendix Agenda Item 3)
The Minutes of the meeting held on 18 March 2020, were agreed as a true record.
11/20. Internal Audit Reports (Appendices Agenda Items 4a & 4b)
Ms Parkes presented the following reports –
Assurance Review of Procurement (previously circulated)
The Committee was advised that the review had considered the arrangements for the identification of need, sourcing, approving and receipt of goods and services, including tendering arrangements and how value for money was considered in the College’s overall procurement arrangements.
The review had resulted in a judgement of ‘Reasonable Assurance’, with 4 Important and 7 Routine Action Points – there were no urgent Action Points and all recommendations had been accepted by College management.
The Committee sought assurance that –
- the implementation dates for the Action Points set out in the report were achievable, considering the impact on the College operations of the Covid-19 pandemic. The FD reported that the Action Points would be achieved by expected implementation dates, with the possible exception of market testing preferred suppliers, as the College’s tendering for waste disposal services had been frustrated by the Estates and Finance Teams’ need to prioritise projects managing the impact of flooding and Covid-19 on the College.
- all Budget Holders were aware of the procurement policies and procedures. The FD explained that all staff received training on Induction and when becoming Budget Holders, including awareness of all relevant policies and procedures and the College’s Financial Regulations.
- appropriate financial controls remained in place during the period of lockdown and for offsite working. The FD confirmed that the financial procedures had been largely unaffected by lockdown and remote working; however, the Free School Meals procedures had been amended to reflect the significantly larger volume of vouchers being processed.
The Committee observed that the FD was named as the responsible officer for all the Action Points and sought assurance that the College had contingency plans in place should he become indisposed. The FD replied that plans were in place.
Resolved: That the report be noted.
The Committee received with interest the IAS dated Newsletter, which set out a number of developing issues.
12/20. Financial Statement Auditors 2020 – 2021 Audit Plan and Strategy (Appendices Agenda Item. 5a & 5b)
Mr Devitt introduced the Financial Statement Auditor Audit Plan and Report (previously circulated) for the year ended 30 July 2020.
The Plan and Strategy set out –
- Grant Thornton’s understanding of the principal business issues relating to Shrewsbury Colleges Group (SCG) and the overall impact on the audit approach – financial position and Going Concern;
- The Company’s risk-based approach;
- Significant risks identified. These risks included –
- Significant risks, such as the risk of fraud, the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty over the Country’s departure from the European Union; and
- Reasonably possible risks (income and expenditure);
- The Company’s approach to materiality and regularity assurance;
- The Team;
- Fees; and
- Communications of audit matters with the Committee.
In addition, Mr Devitt advised that, as part of new internal procedures being applied to all clients, the College’s Going Concern Statement would be scrutinised by the firm’s Technical Team whose review would provide additional rigour and assessment and if necessary challenge the College’s assumptions. The FD asked for details of the Team’s approach and documents likely to be requested, so he could prepare. Mr Devitt confirmed that the Firm would discuss with management any potential implications for the audit report if it had been unable to obtain sufficient audit evidence.
In response to a question, Mr Devitt explained that most audit firms were adding a caveat to their reports acknowledging the uncertainty facing the Country over the progress of negotiations to leave the European Union.
Mr Devitt explained that the global outbreak of the Covid-19 virus pandemic had led to unprecedented uncertainty for all organisations. The firm would work with management to understand the implications the College’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic had had on its ability to prepare the financial statements and update financial forecasts and would assess the implications on its audit approach.
Additionally, lockdown would present certain challenges to auditors in conducting and completing audits, although the firm would discuss with the College arrangements to conduct the audit safely. It was acknowledged that, presently, some audits were being delayed as clients struggled to deliver the required information and uncertainty of making a decision over Going Concern.
The Committee discussed this in relation to the production of the College’s Financial Statements and Going Concern Statement. It was noted that, currently, the College was still required to submit signed-off Financial Statements to the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) by 31 December 2020.
Mr Devitt also referred to the report (previously circulated) that covered some important areas of the auditor risk assessment and that Grant Thornton was required to make enquiries under accounting standards. The report did include a reference to an incident of whistleblowing to the Education and Skills Funding Authority (ESFA) which would not have a financial impact but may affect reputation. The Principal/CEO highlighted a point of accuracy regarding the details of solicitors utilised by the College during the year.
Resolved: That it be recommended to Board the External Audit Plan and Strategy. ACTION: ITEM TO BOARD
13/20. Risk Register 2019 – 2020 (Appendix Agenda Item 6)
As recommended by the Committee (Audit Committee Min. No. 30/19 refers) at its previous meeting, the format of the Risk Register had 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 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. The FD observed that the definition of this risk, while focused on the threat to the College’s integrity, did not also reflect the risk to student’s learning and that an additional risk should 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.
In response to a question, the Principal/CEO explained that, due to the College’s decision to operate remote learning and remote staff working where possible, the College could be flexible in terms of staffing when it partially re-opened from 15 June 2020, using staff who had volunteered to return to the workplace. The College could also support staff who were either anxious about returning to work or were unable to do so, as they were either shielding or carers.
Resolved: That it be recommended to Board that the Risk Register 2019 – 2020, be approved.
ACTION: REPORT TO BOARD
14/20. Audit Recommendation Tracking Report (Appendix Agenda Item 8)
The Committee reviewed and noted the Audit Recommendation Tracking Report (previously circulated).
The FD took the opportunity to explain to the Committee the impact of the Covid-19 College closure on the work of the Internal Audit Service, which had been unable to complete its planned programme of work; this would be reflected in the Service’s Annual Report to the Committee at its meeting in November 2020. Ms Parkes reported that it was hoped that the Service could complete one more audit before the end of the Academic Year.
The Committee noted the impact of the Covid-19 closure on the ability to complete recommendations by expected deadlines and agreed that, on balance, this was acceptable, given that the College and its staff were facing unprecedented challenges at present.
Resolved: That the report be noted.
15/20. Irregularity and Fraud
16/20. Committee Self-Assessment 2019 - 2020 (Appendix No. 9 b)
At the end of the 2018 – 2019 governance cycle, the Board and each committee completed an evaluation exercise and governors were requested to undertake an individual self- assessment in July 2019. These informed the Board’s self-assessment return and improvement action plan 2019 – 2020.
The Committee Chair directed members to consider the Committee’s performance during 2019 – 2020 and submit the outcome to the Clerk. The Evaluation would also include an assessment of how effectively the Committee had carried out its responsibilities and a compliance audit against the Audit and Accountability Annexe to the Foundation Code of Government.
17/20. Date of Next Meeting – to be confirmed.
The meeting concluded at 7.15 p.m.
The meeting concluded at 7.15 p