Assembly Commission Audit and Risk Committee

Terms of Reference

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission (Assembly Commission) has established the Assembly Commission Audit and Risk Committee (“ACARC”) to support the Clerk/Chief Executive (in her role as Accounting Officer), the Assembly Commission and Senior Management Team in their responsibilities for issues of risk, control and governance by reviewing the comprehensiveness of assurances in meeting the organisation’s assurance needs and reviewing the reliability and integrity of these assurances.



The members of ACARC include:

  • One member of the Assembly Commission; and
  • Two independent external members.

ACARC will be chaired by an independent external member.

ACARC will be provided with a secretariat function by the Directorate of Legal, Governance and Research Services.



After each ACARC meeting, all Assembly Commission members, ACARC members and attendees will be provided with the minutes and action points arising from the meeting.

ACARC will provide the Assembly Commission, Accounting Officer and the Senior Management Team with an Annual Report, timed to support the finalisation of accounts and the Governance Statement, summarising its conclusions from the work it has done during the year.

The report will summarise the ACARC opinion regarding:

  • the effectiveness of governance, risk management and control;
  • the comprehensiveness of assurances in meeting the Assembly Commission’s and Accounting Officer’s needs;
  • the reliability and integrity of these assurances;
  • whether the assurance available is sufficient to support the Assembly Commission and Accounting Officer in their decision taking and their accountability obligations;
  • the implication of these assurances for the overall management of risk;
  • any issues ACARC considers pertinent to the Governance Statement and any long-term issues the Committee thinks the Assembly Commission and/or Accounting Officer should give attention to;
  • financial reporting for the year;
  • the quality of both Internal and External Audit and their approach to their responsibilities;
  • ACARC’s view of its own effectiveness, including advice on ways in which it considers it needs to be strengthened or developed; and
  • the manner in which issues involving best use of resources/value for money have been addressed.

The Chairperson of ACARC should attend at least one meeting of the Assembly Commission each year to report in private, without the presence of members of the Assembly Commission.

The Independent Chairperson and Member of ACARC will undergo an annual appraisal with the Clerk/Chief Executive.



ACARC will advise the Assembly Commission, the Accounting Officer and the Senior Management Team on:

  • the strategic processes for risk, control and governance and the Governance Statement;
  • the accounting policies, the accounts and the annual report of the Assembly Commission, including the process for review of the accounts prior to submission for audit, levels of error identified and management’s letter of representation to the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO);
  • the planned activity and results of both internal and external audit;
  • the adequacy of management response to issues identified by audit activity, including the Report to those charged with Governance from the NIAO;
  • assurances relating to the management of risk and corporate governance requirements for the Assembly Commission;
  • proposals for tendering for either Internal or External Audit services1 or for purchase of non-audit services from contractors who provide audit services;
  • anti-fraud policies, whistle-blowing processes and arrangements for special investigations;
  • ACARC will annually review its own effectiveness by way of a self- assessment exercise and consider matters of interest to be drawn to the attention of the Assembly Commission; and
  • the commissioning of specific audits.



ACARC may:

  • co-opt additional members for a period not exceeding a year to provide specialist skills, knowledge and experience; and
  • procure specialist ad-hoc advice at the expense of the Assembly, subject to budgets agreed by the Assembly Commission.



The Chairperson of ACARC should have right of access to the Speaker in his/her role as Chairperson of the Assembly Commission.

The Head of Internal Audit and the representative of the Northern Ireland Audit Office will have free and confidential access to the Chairperson of ACARC.



ACARC will meet at least four times a year. The Chairperson of ACARC may convene additional meetings, as they deem necessary.

A minimum of two Members of ACARC will be present for the meeting to be deemed quorate. In the absence of the Chairperson, the Independent Member will preside.

ACARC Members nominated to represent the Assembly Commission may nominate another Member of the Assembly Commission to attend on their behalf.

ACARC meetings will normally be attended by the Accounting Officer, the Director of Corporate Services, the Director of Legal, Governance and Research Services, the Director of Parliamentary Services, the Head of Internal Audit, the Head of Finance and a representative from the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

ACARC may ask any other officials of the Assembly Commission to attend to assist it with its discussions on any particular matter.

ACARC may ask any or all of those who normally attend but who are not members to withdraw to facilitate open and frank discussion of particular matters.

The Assembly Commission, the Accounting Officer or Senior Management Team may ask ACARC to convene further meetings to discuss particular issues on which they want the Committee’s advice.

At the discretion of the Chairperson, minor matters which require attention between scheduled meetings of ACARC may be dealt with by correspondence and reported to the next scheduled meeting.



For each meeting ACARC will be provided with:

  • A report summarising any significant changes to the Assembly Commission’s strategic risks and a copy of the Corporate Risk Register;
  • A progress report from the Head of Internal Audit summarising:
    • Work performed (and a comparison with work planned);
    • Key issues emerging from the work of Internal Audit;
    • Management response to audit recommendations;
    • Changes to the agreed Internal Audit Plan; and
    • Any resourcing issues affecting the delivery of the objectives of Internal Audit.
  • A progress report (written/verbal) from the NIAO representative summarising work done and emerging findings;
  • Copies of all Internal Audit Reports.

As and when appropriate, ACARC will also be provided with:

  • Proposals for the Terms of Reference of Internal Audit / the Internal Audit Charter;
  • The Internal Audit Strategy;
  • The Head of Internal Audit’s Annual Opinion and Report;
  • Quality Assurance reports on the Internal Audit function;
  • The draft accounts of the Assembly Commission;
  • The draft Governance Statement;
  • A report on any changes to accounting policies;
  • The NIAO’s Report to those charged with Governance;
  • A report on any proposals to tender for audit functions;
  • A report on co-operation between Internal and External Audit;
  • The NIAO audit strategy;
  • Reports on the management of major incidents, “near misses” and lessons learned; and
  • The Assembly Commission’s Risk Management Strategy; and
  • Stewardship Statements.



Members of ACARC will record in the ACARC Register of Interests any issues on which they might have a conflict or perceived conflict of interest. ACARC as a whole should consider how matters on which a member may have a conflict of interest will be handled.



The Data Protection and Governance Officer (within the Directorate of Legal, Governance and Research Services) will provide administrative support services to ACARC. The Assembly Commission will be responsible for ensuring compliance with procedures and maintenance of a Register of Interests.

An agenda and papers will be circulated one week in advance of each meeting.

The Assembly Commission will endeavour to send draft minutes and a summary of action points to the Chairperson within ten working days of the meeting. The formal minutes will be posted on the Assembly website within five working days of their approval. Approved action points will be issued to relevant staff.

The Assembly Commission will prepare an induction pack for new members.



The ACARC Terms of Reference will be reviewed annually.



1 Where appropriate and with due regard to NIAO’s statutory role to carry out the external audit of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission.

Find MLAs

Find your MLAs

Locate MLAs


News and Media Centre

Visit the News and Media Centre

Read press releases, watch live and archived video

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

Follow the Assembly on our social media channels

Keep up-to-date with the Assembly

Find out more

Useful Contacts

Contact us

Contacts for different parts of the Assembly

Contact Us