The Head of Finance explained that the above report presented the findings of an initial lessons learned review carried out by finance officers following the 2021/22 accounts closedown. It gave an assessment on the findings of the lessons learned review and the plans in place to implement for 2022/23 and the key risks to the closedown process for 2022/23. The report showed full conversations with Audit Wales and listed small things and report brought bigger issues.
The Senior Finance Business Partner (Chief Accountant) highlighted that following the closedown of the 2021/22 accounts, a lessons learned review was undertaken to put into place further improvements for the closedown of the accounts process. The lessons learned review was taken as a matter of course, and with the issues that arose from the audit of the 2021/22 accounts, this review was of high importance to ensure improvements for 2022/23 were delivered.
Committee Member Comments:
§ D Reed referred to the Related Party relationships, page 76 of the report pack and that it was the second year that Audit Wales had flagged this as a weakness. Was this difficult to complete for councillors. The Senior Finance Business Partner (Chief Accountant) considered that the election last year might have been the reason that all were not returned. D Reed asked that on the basis of the response it would not be as difficult to see a better response in the next year.
D Reed also referred to the Accruals, on page 73 of the pack, that most schools were not on the council system regarding purchase orders and what action what was being done. The Senior Finance Business Partner (Chief Accountant) advised that there was a new finance system in place which should be going live by end of next year and officers would be working with schools to bring them online; all schools were on board with the new system.
D Reed asked that with reference to all topics highlighted in the lessons learned report, if there was there an action plan underneath the report where everything was being adopted, in a similar way as risk mitigating action. The Senior Finance Business Partner (Chief Accountant) mentioned that there was nothing formalised, but this was something that would be reviewed as an ongoing basis. Part of this would be looked at by Audit and Audit Wales. There was a document that formed the basis of this report which would also be part of the review. The Head of Finance thanked D Reed for his comments and suggested an action plan would be a simple but effective tool and would take on board these comments.
§ The Chair agreed with D Reed’s comments and suggested that whilst there was a lot of detail in the report, it needed a simpler format, and an action plan was essential.
The Chair referred to assurance regarding capacity; Information from Third Parties - transport and Leasing and IFRS. It was pleasing to hear that there was an additional member of staff but still needed the assurance, as there may be a gap in the process and with the action plan, the gap could be filled.
Finally, the Chair mentioned the Related Party forms not being handed in by councillors and whether this should be enforced. The Chair was concerned that Audit Wales had picked this up on a second occasion. If this was also an issue in the future, the Chair would write to the Leaders of each group to ensure that these forms were completed. The Head of Finance also mentioned that the forms were being submitted with a deadline in late April and any councillors outstanding would have the opportunity to complete their forms at April Council.
The Governance and Audit Committee noted the lessons learned process that was carried out to date and the planned improvement following this review.