Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 20 June 2017

ROOM 106, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS

1. APOLOGIES

1.1 Apologies were received from Jim Wells MLA.                  

2. DECLARATION OF INTERESTS

2.1 There were no declarations of interest.

3. MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETINGS

3.1 The minutes of the SARC meeting held on 17 May 2017, to which a further action point had been added, were approved without amendment.

4. MATTERS ARISING

4.1 SARC members noted the four completed action points.

5. INTERNAL AUDIT ACTIVITY / ASSURANCE

5.1 Brian Moreland, Head of Internal Audit, informed SARC that two audit reports had been issued in final form since the May SARC meeting.

5.2 The final report on Risk Management was issued on 25 May 2017, with a Substantial level of assurance. One recommendation was made at risk rating 2 in relation to the cascading of information regarding the new Risk Management Strategy throughout the Secretariat.

5.3 The final report on the Committee for the Communities was issued on 31 May 2017, with three recommendations, all at risk rating 3. The recommendations related to Committee correspondence, checklists and the completeness of information recorded on the gifts and hospitality register. The assurance rating for this review is Substantial.

5.4 In relation to audits in progress, fieldwork on the Cyber Security scoping review is now complete and the report drafted. The audit of the roof project has restarted and will be completed as soon as possible.

5.5 The audit of Members’ expenses is well underway, with the constituency visits now completed. To date no major issues have been identified.

5.6 Mr Moreland informed SARC that no whistleblowing cases have been reported to Internal Audit to date this year, and no new cases of fraud have been identified by, or reported to, Internal Audit since the May SARC meeting.

5.7 Mr Moreland advised that the investigation, last reported on at May SARC, has now been concluded.

5.8 Mr Moreland reported that the Inter-Parliamentary Head of Internal Audit group had met in Parliament Buildings on 16 June 2017.  Items discussed included cyber security, preparedness audits in respect of the General Data Protection Regulation, external reviews and possible Brexit impacts.

6. AUDIT RECOMMENDATIONS SCHEDULE

6.1 SARC members emphasised the importance of the schedule in keeping track of the implementation of audit recommendations.  They considered the updates and noted the continuing high level of implementation of accepted Audit recommendations, with 11 recommendations currently “in progress”.

7. CORPORATE RISK REGISTER

7.1 SARC members noted the changes made to the contents of the Corporate Risk Register since the May SARC meeting. The contents were discussed and SARC members were content.   

8. PROCUREMENT ACTIVITY REPORT

8.1 Richard Stewart gave SARC members an overview of the Assembly Secretariat’s procurement activity in the 2016-17 financial year, with a spend of £6.4m. Five contracts exceeded the EU tender threshold, thus requiring advertising in the Official Journal of the European Union.  All competitions undertaken by the Procurement Office during 2016-17 were fully compliant with the relevant Regulations and were awarded without legal challenge or formal complaint. During the year, there was only 1 Single Tender Action over £30k approved.  It is intended to carry out a review of the Procurement /Finance/Purchasing systems over the next 18 months.

8.2 SARC members asked if there was scope to reduce the costs of existing contracts given the reduction in activities resulting from the current political situation.  The Clerk / Chief Executive advised SARC that all contracts were being reviewed in the light of the political situation.

9. DRAFT FINAL REPORT TO THOSE CHARGED WITH GOVERNANCE

9.1 Louise Mason apologised for the late availability of the draft Final Report to Those Charged with Governance and gave SARC members an overview of the report. Louise informed SARC that an “Unqualified opinion” was anticipated from the Comptroller and Auditor General.  A potential excess vote had not occurred due to the adoption of a change in the accounting policy for accounting for pensions, and testing of payments to Assembly Members had not highlighted any significant issues. One priority 2 recommendation, in relation to SMG’s need to monitor actual contract costs versus estimated costs, has been made and management’s response is awaited. NIAO also suggested that consideration be given to stating in the Accounts the remuneration received by Non-Executive Directors.

ACTION: RICHARD STEWART

9.2 SARC members were content with the draft Final Report to Those Charged with Governance and, in particular, were pleased to note the anticipated “Unqualified opinion”.

10. NI ASSEMBLY RESOURCE ACCOUNTS 2016-17

10.1 Paula McClintock apologised for the late availability of the latest set of draft Resource Accounts for 2016-17.  Paula gave SARC members an update on editorial changes to the Accounts since the draft version was presented to SARC in May, including minor amendments to the Governance Statement.  The most significant change in the accounts related to the Prior Period Adjustment in relation to the change in accounting policy regarding the Members’ Pension Scheme.  The presentation of this in the Accounts had been agreed by the Department of Finance for both the Statement of Assembly Supply, and associated notes, and the primary financial statements.

10.2    SARC members were content with what they regarded as a professional set of Accounts and recommended that the Accounting Officer sign the Resource Accounts 2016-17 on Friday 23 June 2017, for subsequent certification and laying by 29 June 2017.

ACTION: LESLEY HOGG

10.3 SARC members joined the Clerk / Chief Executive in thanking the staff of the Finance Office and the NIAO for all of their hard work that had resulted in the successful completion of the Annual Accounts.

11. KEY GUIDANCE FROM DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE

11.1 SARC members noted the one FD letter that had been issued by the Department of Finance since the May SARC meeting and its application to the Assembly Secretariat.

12. A.O.B.

12.1 SARC members noted the Stewardship Statement completed by the Director of Facilities.

12.2 SARC members congratulated the Clerk / Chief Executive and her officials on a well-run organisation, with a robust audit function and rapid implementation of recommendations by management. The Independent Chairperson and Independent Member also expressed appreciation of the welcome that they had received since their appointment on 1 December 2016.

13. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

13.1 The next meeting of SARC will be held in October 2017.

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