Agenda item

Senior Executive Remuneration Review – Audit for year ending 31 March 2018, Recommendations from Council

Minutes:

 

 

 

 

17. Senior Executive Remuneration Review – Audit for year ending 31 March 2018 – Recommendations from Full Council.

 

The Head of Legal Services stated that this was a report from the Monitoring Officer setting out the amended resolution agreed at Full Council on 19 March. For the purposes of clarity Councillor Weston, who had moved the amendment to Recommendation 3, had been consulted on the amendment’s intention. An agreed note of clarification was read out:

 

‘For the avoidance of doubt, the recommendation envisages that the Audit Committee will review the BDO report and action plan and will receive a verbal briefing from BDO in respect of the all aspects of the review – (namely Final payment arrangements, Recruitment processes, Probation arrangements and Performance management arrangements) and the action plan approved by Full Council. There will be an additional explanation by the Auditors and a confidential report prepared by the former Interim Monitoring Officer in to the legal and governance processes undertaken. This will take place in exempt session where necessary.

 

Having undertaken this further work, the Audit committee will provide feedback and comment to the Head of Paid Service in relation to the BDO Review and any further action points not covered by the statutory recommendations flowing from it. This will inform the Head of Paid Service’s written update to Full Council. The original approved recommendation also requires that the HR committee will review progress made in relation to the recommendations in the BDO report and the action plan and provide feedback and comment to the Head of Paid service in similar terms.

 

At the Audit committee planning meeting a list of documents considered by BDO was requested by Members and it was envisaged that this would be provided. The Auditors however were not party to this conversation and have since clarified that they do not have a list, would not expect to prepare one as this is not a commissioned/forensic review, and would not be what is normally expected as part of this work. They do not therefore propose to prepare a list’

 

 The following points arose from discussion:-

 

1. The Chair clarified for the Committee that it was Councillor Weston’s intention that the Audit Committee consider the matter and report back to the Head of Paid Service;

 

2. In response to a point of clarification regarding the document review process BDO confirmed that interviews did not take place with individuals involved in the arrangements but that BDO had spoken to some individuals within the council  in order to clarify documents;

 

3. BDO confirmed that the scope of their review was wider than that reported in the statutory recommendations at Full Council. The review also covered areas that were of a confidential/sensitive nature as well as areas where the review indicated  the Council had already addressed what would have been a concern and changed their arrangements and therefore not covered in the report to Council;

 

4. BDO confirmed that their scope was not for a forensic review. The review was carried out in line with the terms of the National Audit Office code;

 

5. Councillor Negus reported that the Monitoring Officer had confirmed that the elements not in writing could only be considered in exempt session. It was clear there were other historic elements that added to events but were not included within the scope of the review. He noted that the probationary period was crucial to the review and was not included;

 

6. Simon Cookson stated that the Audit Committee needed assurances that processes were in place so that this did not happen again. He questioned whether the Committee was now in a position to draw a line on the matter or was there other evidence it would want to consider acting upon;

 

7. Councillor Brain proposed that should the matter happen again disciplinary action would be taken against officers involved and the Mayor/Members involved would be referred to standards. The Chair supported this and suggested that this be put forward to the Head of Paid Service as a recommendation. This was supported by the Committee;

 

8. The Chair proposed that for future decision making there had to be a paper trail of the decision making for audit purposes. This was supported;

 

9. Councillor Negus asked how BDO were able to ask the right questions in order to make their determination whereas the previous legal advice on this matter had concluded differently. BDO were unable to determine how decisions had been reached at the time as there was an incomplete trail. BDO had reviewed the contract and sought clarifications regarding the terms of it and was therefore clear on their conclusion;

 

10. Councillor O’Rourke felt that lessons had been learned by HR and legal Services but that there was a vacuum as it was not known who the agents of the decision making were. She added that as the HR ToR was misaligned to the pay policy so a choice was made to not be transparent;

 

11. Simon Cookson suggested that future decisions of this nature should be reviewed for the purpose of assurance. The BDO had not been able to state ‘who/why/when’ as the audit trail was not there;

 

12. Councillor O’Rourke asked whether the Secretary of State could come in and investigate the matter and was informed that this could be requested but there was no precedent for such a request;

 

13. Grant Thornton reported that their responsibilities for 2018/19 would be to consider BDO’s recommendations and seek assurances that they had been adopted;

 

14. The Head of Legal Services reminded the Committee of their ToR; it was not for the committee to undertake detailed investigations into individual particular cases but to focus on what processes are in place to ensure good governance ;

 

15. Councillor Negus was concerned that it was not possible to make proper recommendations to the Head of Paid Service when there was information that was unknown;

 

16. The Committee noted that the Action Plan which went before Full Council set out what it was proposed to do in terms of each recommendation. HR Committee and Audit Committee recommendations would provide additional assurances;

 

17. Councillor Hickman asked for assurances that processes did not rely on any one individual. She also suggested that a timeline for recommendation implementation would be helpful;

 

18. The Director – Finance reminded the Committee that the review had been undertaken by the independent external auditor and commissioning a further investigation of the auditors work for assurance was not the correct approach. There needs to be an acceptance that BDO had acted independently and advised on the areas they considered required improvements and for other areas rectifications they would have sought were already in place.

 

19. It was agreed that the Chair with assistance of Legal and Democratic Services would compile a list of suggestions/recommendations to inform the Head of Paid Service’s written update to Full Council in July.

 

 

Resolved –

1. That the Resolution of Full Council on 19 March 2019 be noted;

2. That the following suggestions/recommendations be provided to the Head of Paid Service to inform his written update to Full Council in July:-

 

i) Should similar circumstances take place again officers involved would be subject to disciplinary action and Members/Mayor involved would be subject to a referral to the Monitoring Officer under the Member Complaints process;

ii) All decision making in relation to the employment of Senior officers to have a proper documented trail for audit purposes;

iii) Internal Audit to carry out inspections of future decision making for assurances that processes were being followed and report back to the Audit Committee;

iv) A timeline for implementation of recommendations be drafted.

 

 

Supporting documents: