Agenda and minutes

Audit and Risk Committee
Wednesday, 31st July, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room 3 - Civic Centre, St Peter's Square, Wolverhampton WV1 1SH

Contact: Dereck Francis  Tel: 01902 555835 or Email: dereck.francis@wolverhampton.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillor Craig Collingswood and Mike Ager and John Humphries (Independent Members).

2.

Declaration of interests

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made

3.

Audited Statement of Accounts 2018-2019 pdf icon PDF 158 KB

[To receive an update from the Council’s external auditors on their findings in relation to the Statement of Accounts for 2018-2019] [report to follow]

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mark Stocks from the Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton presented the update report on their audit of the Council’s Statement of Accounts for 2018- 2019. He reported on extra items/ unadjusted errors that had been identified since the last meeting on 22 July 2019.  The anticipated ‘unqualified opinion’ on the accounts that he reported on 22 July would be unmodified. Mark Stocks also informed the Committee that their risk based review of the Council’s value for money arrangements with regard to its Medium Term Financial Resilience and Strategic Assets was now complete.  There were no issues to report on this matter.  Their audit work in relation to the Civic Halls refurbishment was also complete and due to the findings, he proposed to issue an ‘exempt for qualification’ opinion.  He took the Committee through the details of the Value for Money work and the conclusions on their Civic Halls refurbishment audit work.

 

The Chair said that it was important to note that the Civic Halls refurbishment programme had changed substantially from the original project and that the current scheme was a complete refurbishment. That went some way to explain why the costs had increased.

 

Councillor Jonathan Yardley queried the increased costs for the removal of asbestos, the reduction to the budget for project management of the scheme, when the decision was made to change the scope of the scheme, and why the contract for the refurbishment work had not been stopped instead of rolling it on.  The external auditor reported that he had probed the Council on the issue of asbestos.   When the original project commenced a preliminary budget had been set.  As the Council got further into the scheme and surveys were undertaken, it became clear that the budget had to be increased and new specialists brought in.  A decision was then made to take out all of the asbestos from the Civic Halls buildings.  The end costs were therefore always going to be at the amount now identified.  Regarding the change of the project into the major scheme it is now, the decision was made in December 2017.  The Council had reflected on legislation and advice from its advisors.  In hindsight maintaining more project management might have helped but he could not fault the Council for taking advice.

 

Ian Cotterill, Audit Business Partner informed the Committee that from the outset of the project a strategic construction partner and a project manager were in place to oversee the project.

 

Councillor Roger Lawrence agreed with the external auditors finding that the Civic Halls project was now significantly different to the original scheme. He said that with hindsight there were errors that the Council would need to learn from.  The original scheme was a smaller refurbishment project.  Until you get into the detail of the scheme the weaknesses are not known.  In his view the Council had been let down on a number of occasions.  In October 2017 it was clear that there was a significant problem and there were a number  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.