The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
Relevant updates on any outstanding actions were provided and the Action Log updated
The Commissioner requested a report relating to the internal audits which have taken place relating to NFRS in the financial year 2020/2021.
The report should provide an overview of the internal audit programme, it should outline all findings in relation to levels of assurance for each audit, whether they are acceptable or not, progress against those recommendations and timescales for completion of all of them.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Rob Porter provided an update.
As a stand-alone entity, NCFRA are subject to both internal and external auditing.
Audit work was suspended in Q1 2020 due to the first national pandemic lockdown. Therefore, work did not start until August 2020 which has had an impact on the original delivery plan and timescales.
A second national lockdown in January 2021, coupled with remote working and a local government (LGSS) reorganisation have had a further knock-on effect.
The overview of the audits which have been completed along with the adequacy of the systems were summarised in a dashboard report ahead of the meeting.
There were 31 agreed recommendation for the year 2019/20 of which 7 were categorised as essential, 14 important and 10 standard.
27 of the agreed recommendations have been completed, 3 are still ongoing and 1 is overdue.
There are currently 22 agreed recommendations for the year 2020/21: 4 essential, 13 important and 5 standard.
All recommendations are managed as a standing item at the Bi-monthly Fire Executive Board to ensure the necessary strategic ownership and delivery.
Grenfell Action Plan.
The assurance given to the system design is good because governance measures are in place.
The assurance given for compliance is also good because testing has identified good compliance.
The organisational impact of the findings is minor because the weakness identified during the review have left NCFRA open to low risk.
In addition, regular oversight of the Grenfell Action Plan is applied via quarterly reports to the Fire Accountability Board.
Asset management continues to be a challenge with a number of control weaknesses presenting a medium risk to the operational and financial control environments.
With the appointment of joint heads for Fleet and Chief Technology Officer a structure for greater control has been introduced
A new performance framework is providing greater oversight particularly around gaps in information that was not previously needed.
HK confirmed that this is the purpose of an audit which will target the areas that an organisation doesn’t know much about for them to learn and is particularly important in the first 3 years of the governance change.
Mangers are accepting the findings and are learning from them which is good.
There was a discussion about the bits in the plan that haven’t yet been completed.
HK confirmed she will need these for the year-end assessment.
Financial controls – bank controls, VAT claims will all be managed by the joint Finance team from July. These are all areas of greatest risk and therefore need to be brought within the management of Enabling Services sooner.
Payroll will move in 2022.
It was agreed that a progress report on the transfer of MFSS to Enabling Services will come to the Accountability Board later this year. This will also allow for the new PCC’s in Notts and Cheshire to settle in.
There was a discussion about the lessons learned from MFSS; a good demonstration that contracting services out of county, whilst initially might appear to be cheaper but in the end, there is a cost for value for money, efficiency and management time. More expensive to keep in house but more control.
Covid-19 Spend Analysis
The assurance given to the system design is good because Governance measures have been in place over the C19 contract management and spending.
4 actions are ongoing with processes in place to manage procurement and stock control.
Internal Audit Recommendations Dashboard extract – Appendix 2 of report
A table was provided to summarise the progress made against audit recommendations at the JIAC as an annual total.
The table provided an overview of what actions are outstanding and when they will be completed.
The MTFP action is overdue and relates to managing budgets within the existing arrangements.
There is more work to do in terms of changing behaviour and managing practice otherwise this action will continue to arise each year. For example monitoring of energy bills and raising invoices needs to be more robust..
Work is in train to manage the outstanding actions from 2019/2020 and is being overseen by Assistant Chief Officer Paul Bullen.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Rob Porter confirmed he is content with the control that are now in place.
HK would encourage managers to think about realistic timescales for some of the changes that are needed. Much better to have an action plan that is achievable rather than provide an unrealistic target/end date and not meet it.
The Chief Fire Officer agreed adding that ambition has sometimes outstripped capacity. Better saying will be done in 6 months than promise 3 months and move it back by 3 months.
The Commissioner was assured that the NFRS internal audit programme was examining the correct areas of the business post the 2019 governance change and that progress was being made in relation to the recommendations and the activity required as a result.
He noted that several actions following recommendations had slipped and was clear that he preferred realistic timescales for required changes to be implemented, rather than identifying potentially unrealistic early completion dates that then needed to be adjusted.
Whilst articulating that further progress needed to be made in a few areas, such as asset management and in regard to some financial controls he was overall assured that positive progress was being made.
New Police Fire & Crime Panel
Post-election and with the move to the two Unitary Authorities, there will be an opportunity to support and educate new members.
The Chief Fire Officer confirmed he is happy to be involved.
Grenfell style cladding
Recent news of another high-rise fire in London with Grenfell style cladding prompted a discussion on the pressure on the government to change the law on cladding costs etc
The Chief Fire officer confirmed we don’t have any issues regards to cladding but as they widen out the protection work they are bound to find other concerns.
Have been notified of buildings in our area that have applied for funding through Building Safety Fund although unlikely to be successful as does not have Grenfell style cladding.
Scott Richards team have re-inspected all our buildings and plans are in place to spend the HO money that NFRS has been awarded.
It is the responsibility of the Housing Departments within the new unitary authorities to re-establish SPOC’s for all things housing related.