Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Friday, 09 December 2011

Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

Members:
Colm McKenna, Chairperson
Pat Ramsey MLA

1.  APOLOGIES

1.1. Apologies were received from Louise Mason. The NIAO was represented by Richard Emerson and Brendan Devlin.

Trevor Reaney congratulated Colm McKenna on his recent appointment as SARC Chairperson and advised SARC that the resultant member vacancy should be filled before the next SARC meeting.

2.  DECLARATION OF INTERESTS

2.1.  There were no declarations of interests.

3.  MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETINGS

3.1.  The minutes of the SARC meetings held on 6 September and 11 October 2011 were approved without amendment.

4.  MATTERS ARISING

4.1.  6 September minutes, Paragraph 4.4

Trevor Reaney updated SARC on the work of the Business Efficiency Programme in relation to procurement issues.  In addition, Richard Stewart and John Stewart are co-chairing a group reporting on the creation and management of contracts which will have input from a specialist in the House of Commons.  The report will be available by the end of the 2011-12 financial year.

4.2.  6 September minutes, Paragraph 4.6

Trevor Reaney advised SARC that external procurement expertise has been engaged in relation to the Support Services contract.  Invitations to tender are expected to issue early in the New Year.

4.3.  6 September minutes, Paragraph 5.3

Pat Ramsey MLA requested an update for the next SARC meeting on the review of the Financial Assistance for Political Parties (FAPP) Scheme 2007 as agreed by the Assembly Commission following the Internal Audit report on the Review of FAPP and Members’ Salaries, which issued in January 2011, with the subsequent follow-up report issuing in November 2011.

ACTION:  PAULA McCLINTOCK

5.  INTERNAL AUDIT ACTIVITY / ASSURANCE

5.1 Brian Moreland reported that a total of seven Internal Audit reports have been issued in final form in the period 1 April 2011 to 30 November 2011. Of these, one received a substantial assurance rating, three were satisfactory, two were assessed as being limited, and one was unacceptable.

5.2.  Three Internal Audit reports had issued in final form since the September meeting of SARC:

The final report on Learning and Development issued on 16 September 2011 and a total of 14 recommendations were made, all of which were accepted by management. Of these, five were risk rating 2 and the remaining nine rated 3.

Recommendations were made regarding timely completion and submission of personal development plans and on the issue of adherence to the procedures in respect of booking, attendance at and payment for conferences/seminars. Internal Audit has also suggested that management consider assigning greater authority to the Learning and Development manager in respect of the approval of FE applications and over the need to request documented business cases from Directors in relation to essential qualification applications.

The assurance level for the audit was satisfactory.

5.3.  The final report for the Bill Office issued on 26 September 2011, with a total of six recommendations made and accepted. Two recommendations were risk rating 2 and the remaining four rated 3.  Recommendations made related to staff resourcing in order to meet business objectives, financial record keeping and business planning. Internal Audit arrived at a substantial level of assurance for this assignment.

5.4.  The report on the Events Office issued on 6 October 2011, with a total of seven recommendations, six of which were accepted by management.  Of the recommendations made three were risk rating 1, one rated 2 and the remainder rated 3.  Recommendations were made regarding the accuracy of information entered on the procurement database, risk assessments in respect of events held in Parliament Buildings and the need to keep the training manual up to date.

The recommendation that was not accepted related to the potential to introduce charges in respect of staff time at events, functions, etc. Internal Audit has suggested that management continue to consider areas where charging may be appropriate.  The assurance rating for this audit was satisfactory.

5.5.  Brian Moreland reported that two follow-up audits have also been completed since the September SARC meeting. The assurance level for each of these audits remains unchanged:

Review of FAPP and Members’ Salaries – Satisfactory

Northern Ireland Assembly & Business Trust - Limited

5.6.  In addition, work is underway in the following assignments:

Freedom of Information - a draft report issued on 15 November 2011 and a final report is expected week commencing 12 December.  Recommendations have been made in respect of management checks on the accuracy of information published by respective business areas, the early implementation of the proposed revisions to the Disclosure log procedures, and for the publication of the agreed NIA Retention and Disposal Schedules.  The assurance level on the draft report is satisfactory.

Secretariat Payroll - the Terms of Reference for this assignment have been agreed with management, and fieldwork began on 28 November 2011. 

5.7.  Mr Moreland also advised SARC that the audit of Members’ expenses – a 25% random sample audit across all parties, involving on-site verification at Constituency Offices – would begin in early 2012.  SARC agreed that Assembly Members should be informed in writing approximately two weeks prior to visits to Constituency Offices taking place.

ACTION: BRIAN MORELAND

5.8.  In relation to planning, Brian Moreland informed SARC that work is due to begin on a revised Internal Audit strategy early in the New Year. This will enable account to be taken of the new structures in the Secretariat and the impacts arising from the Corporate Strategy and Directorate plans. This will involve detailed discussions with Directors and Heads of Business and will feed into a new Internal Audit programme with effect from 1 April 2012.

5.9.  Brian Moreland advised SARC members that the overall level of assurance for the period 1 April 2011 to 30 November 2011 has returned to satisfactory.  This is an improvement in the level of assurance since the previous activity report.

This level of assurance reflects the outcomes of the Internal Audits completed in the period April to November 2011 and will of course be kept under review.  The overall rate of acceptance of Internal Audit recommendations remains high, with the percentages for risk rating 1 and 3 remaining at 100% and the acceptance rate for risk rating 2 now at 95%.

5.10.  Brian Moreland reported that the next meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Head of Internal Audit Group is due to be held in Edinburgh in February / March 2012. Among the subjects for discussion will be the increasing impact of reducing resources across each legislature, training and audit strategies.

5.11.  Mr Moreland informed SARC members that the Interchange opportunity for the post of Internal Auditor closed on 17 November 2011 and one application was received.  An interview took place on 6 December 2011, and the applicant will be offered a post in the Assembly for a period of between 6 and 9 months from January 2012. This will permit work to proceed on the annual review of Members’ expenses and enable the completion of the programme of audits scheduled for 2011/12.

6.  AUDIT RECOMMENDATIONS

6.1.  Following discussion at the September meeting of SARC, the Director of Legal and Governance Services, along with the Head of Internal Audit and the Governance Officer completed an exercise to review the recommendations identified as “in progress”. It was possible to facilitate the completion of a number of these recommendations and agree timetables for implementation of the remainder. The number of recommendations recorded as in progress at the September meeting was 31 (taken from the prior 2009, 2009/10 and 2010/11 years). This figure, for recommendations made in the above years, has now reduced to eight.  SARC members subsequently agreed to the removal of a further recommendation from the schedule, as it was outside the remit of the Assembly Secretariat, bringing the total to seven.  SARC members expressed their appreciation to Secretariat staff for the considerable progress that had been made in implementing audit recommendations and stressed that this position should be maintained and built upon.

6.2.  SARC members discussed concerns which had arisen from the follow-up audit of the NI Assembly and Business Trust in relation to the non-implementation of recommendations previously advised to SARC as having been implemented.  Members were also updated on the situation relating to the Managed Print contract.

7.  NIAO 2011-12 Audit Strategy

7.1.  Richard Emerson outlined the timetable and significant risks identified in the NIAO’s Audit Strategy in relation to the NI Assembly Resource Account for 2011/12.  NIAO and Internal Audit will work together to avoid unnecessary duplication.  SARC members were of the view that the NIAO Audit Strategy had appropriately identified the key risks pertaining to the Assembly. 

8.  PROCUREMENT COMPLIANCE REPORTING

8.1.  SARC members agreed to have sight of a summary of the management document on procurement compliance levels produced as part of the Accounts cycle in June each year.

9.  SARC 2012/13 OBJECTIVES

9.1.  SARC members agreed SARC’s key objectives for 2012/13.

10.  CORPORATE RISK REGISTER

10.1.  SARC members discussed and noted the latest version of the Corporate Risk Register, dated 17 November 2011.

11.  STEWARDSHIP STATEMENTS

11.1.  SARC members noted the Stewardship Statements to the end of September 2011.  SARC members discussed the purpose and role of Stewardship Statements and welcomed any proposals on how the statements might be improved upon or refined in 2011/12.

12.  MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTS

12.1.  Paula McClintock provided an overview of Assembly expenditure and budgeting to end October 2011.  SARC members noted the position.

13.  A.O.B.

13.1.  There was no other business.

14.  DATE OF NEXT MEETING

14.1.  It was agreed that the next meeting of SARC would take place in March 2012.

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