Venue: Conference Room 4B - Tŷ Hywel. View directions
Contact: Clerk: Kathryn Hughes Deputy Clerk: Buddug Saer
Introductions and apologies and declaration of interests
Richard Harries, Wales Audit Office (WAO)
Angela Burns (Assembly Member and Commissioner)
1.1 The Chair welcomed the attendees to the meeting.
1.2 The Chair declared that he was currently a Non-Executive Director on the Electoral Registration Transformation Programme, on which a presentation was being delivered at this meeting.
1.3 No other interests were declared.
Minutes of 7 July meeting, actions and matters arising
2.1 The minutes were agreed and officials provided the following updates on the outstanding actions.
2.2 Dave Tosh provided the following update on the action to accelerate the Business Continuity work and consider the Scottish Parliament’s approach to engaging MSPs:
- learning from desk-top exercises, which had been carried out with 10 out of 12 service areas to test their BC plans, would be used to inform improvements to those plans;
- arrangements were being made for further training on incident management by strategic and tactical teams before testing could be carried out at a corporate level which was scheduled for April 2015; and
- advice from the Scottish Parliament and Cardiff Council would inform the approach for engaging with Assembly Members.
2.3 Dave and Claire assured the Committee that the extended deadline of April 2015 for corporate testing did not increase the Commission’s exposure as controls and tested contingencies were in place to respond to a range of incidents. They also confirmed that most of the audit recommendations would be completed by February.
2.4 All other actions would be covered as agenda items at this, or future meetings.
Internal Audit Activity Report
3.1 Gareth Watts provided an update on progress against the 2014-15 programme of work which was on course for delivery. He also updated the Committee on other activity such as attendance at project board meetings.
3.2 He reported that good progress had been made on the implementation of recommendations which would be followed up in due course.
3.3 Dave Tosh provided an update on progress against recommendations from the review of information governance, where the focus had been on resolving practical issues such as security of mobile assets and storage of information. The Committee requested a presentation of the Information Governance Framework at the next meeting.
3.4 Gareth confirmed that the review of physical security was due to be completed in the coming weeks and agreed to circulate the report to Committee members when it had been approved.
3.5 The Chair congratulated Kathryn Hughes, the Commission’s Risk Manager, on the “strong” opinion on controls around risk management.
- Gareth Watts to formally document the feedback received from Committee members on reports circulated over the summer, and his responses to this. Feedback and responses to be captured as a matter of course in future for reports circulated out of committee.
- Dave Tosh to present the Information Governance Framework to the February meeting.
- Gareth Watts to circulate the report on the review of physical security when complete.
Latest Internal Audit Reports
4.1 Gareth introduced the report on the review of fixed asset management, for which all recommendations had been accepted and the follow-up report on the review of facilities contract management.
4.2 In response to questions from Committee members in relation to fixed assets, Nicola Callow assured the committee that:
a. the Commission’s accountant would be working with ICT to identify assets which needed to be capitalised;
b. assets over £5,000 would be picked up as part of the interim review of the accounts;
c. serial numbers for all assets would be recorded before the year-end; and
d. an assessment of exposure on leases had been carried out to prepare for any impact.
4.3 Gareth presented the report on the review of recruitment which had been carried out in response to a request from the Chief Executive.
4.4 Claire assured the Committee that the results of the audit were being used to inform a series of improvements. This would include:
a. the development, by the Management Board, of a set of principles around decision-making for recruitment;
b. ensuring that the policies, processes and guidance were coherent, accessible, regularly reviewed and properly understood by staff;
c. ensuring that the adoption of the principles and policies, and the reasons for decisions around recruitment exercises were transparent;
d. ensuring that thorough reviews were carried out for each recruitment exercise which would include checks that records had been captured and retained in accordance with records management rules and data protection legislation; and
e. encouraging better ownership of issues by Heads of Service around recruitment, development and performance.
4.5 The Committee endorsed this approach and emphasised the importance of transparency, fairness, and effective record-keeping.
4.6 The Chair also offered to work with the Head of HR to develop the recruitment principles and review the underpinning policies and processes. The recruitment business case template would be shared with Committee members.
4.7 Gareth introduced the HR Payroll report via a presentation. The review was carried out by Gareth and Gwyn Thomas, an independent expert.
4.8 This review concentrated on the governance of the project, rather than the core functionality of the system. Gareth concluded that the scope was ambitious, the resources were limited and that the timescales were fixed. These factors contributed to delays in delivering phase 1 of the HR Payroll project.
4.9 His report did not single out individuals, but highlighted recommendations around questions that could have been raised by the Investment Board and Management Board.
4.10 Committee members were surprised that individuals with little or no project management experience were allocated to this important and complex project and that such contradictory answers were given to some of the questions asked of the project team.
4.11 Claire was disappointed and frustrated that this project was not executed to the normal standard of other high profile, complex projects within the Commission. She assured the Committee that for future projects of this scale, SROs and PMs would be selected at the Investment and Resourcing Board. Claire also confirmed ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
External Audit updates
5.1 Mark Jones introduced this item and confirmed that both the supplier fraud and HR Payroll project were fully covered off in the 2013-14 Management Letter.
5.2 The Committee questioned the progress on replacing the CODA finance system. Mark confirmed that there was general reassurance on the Assembly’s exposure and Nicola agreed to fully update the Committee at the February meeting.
5.3 Mark mentioned some future changes to the WAO audit team and agreed to keep Claire informed of these resource changes.
- Nicola Callow to inform Committee members of the Finance Committee’s response to the Auditor General for Wales regarding the 2015-16 audit fee (to be considered by Finance Committee at the end of November).
- Gareth Watts to discuss coverage of audit on financial controls with WAO.
- Nicola Callow to ensure sign-off of all outstanding recommendations in the Management Letter in plenty of time before the year end.
- Nicola Callow to present contingency plans for the CODA system.
Assembly Commission Governance
6.1 Nicola Callow introduced the item on the 2014/15 budget position and the 2015/16 final budget document.
6.2 Nicola advised that the current forecast outturn was for a £200k-£300K underspend but that figure would change as the year end approached. The budget document for 2015/16 will be laid on 12 November.
6.3 Nicola assured the Committee that the 2015/16 budget reflected the overall position of the Welsh Block grant i.e. a 1% reduction in real terms and that different scenarios are being looked at to help prepare for the possible outcomes of the Comprehensive Spending Review following the 2015 General Election.
6.4 Committee members requested that a breakdown of the Value for Money savings showing staff and non-staff savings be brought to the Committee at the year end.
6.5 Gareth Watts introduced the item on the Assembly Commission Assurance Framework.
6.6 The Committee was pleased to see the work coming to an end and requested to see the final draft at their next meeting. They made the following recommendations:
- that the work being done on assurance should also identify any replication or redundancy of assurance;
- the strengths and deficiencies in the framework should be highlighted;
- the framework should reference the business case framework;
- an assurance map should be produced showing a RAG status for each type of assurance; and
- that thought should be given to how to evidence that on-going effectiveness of assurance within the Assembly.
6.7 Gareth Watts introduced the revised Whistleblowing policy.
6.8 The Committee commented on the need for clarity on who the policy covers and the link to the complaints procedure. They agreed that the policy should be finalised and published as soon as possible.
Presentation - Programme Director Individual Electoral Registration (IER)
7.1 The Chair welcomed David Melding AM, Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, Anna Daniel and Suzanne Scarlett and introduced Colin Dingwall to the Committee.
7.2 Colin has been the Programme Director since its inception. He described the following:
- the fundamentals of the programme, including robust governance arrangements;
- the complex stakeholder management with Ministers, the Electoral Commission and Local Authorities across England, Scotland and Wales;
- the capacity testing methods used e.g. substantial load testing of the IT infrastructure;
- identifying vulnerabilities and single points of failure where it was necessary to work with numerous supply chains;
- the importance of comprehensive ‘go live’ criteria; and
- the final phases of the programme including the focus on benefits realisation.
6.1 Colin highlighted the benefits of external scrutiny throughout the programme. Resourcing has been a key issue throughout, with senior external expertise required for some key roles including the Programme management Office (PMO). Internal staff had gained from this expertise and knowledge had been transferred.
6.2 Colin answered a series of questions and offered the Commission further support and guidance in the future.
6.3 The Committee thanked Colin for his comprehensive and interesting presentation.
Broader Strategic Discussion
8.1 Claire introduced the item on Corporate Risk and highlighted the decisions taken at the last Management Board meeting.
8.2 Committee members discussed the corporate and static risks and how the risks are reviewed. They made the following recommendations:
- risks and issues should be identified and separate registers set up for each;
- corporate and static risks should be formatted and presented in the same way; and
- consideration should be given to adding a corporate risk around project and programme management.
8.3 There was discussion around the corporate capacity risk and how that is being addressed. It was suggested that the timescale for the removal of the risk should be extended to reflect the level of work and change in the Assembly.
8.4 Claire introduced the corporate performance report for information.
8.5 The Chair welcomed Anna Daniel to the discussion on Future Constitutional Change.
8.6 Claire set the scene on changes since 2011. The following timeline was presented:
- Establishment of the Silk Commission (first report published November 2012);
- subsequent debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords;
- Wales Bill to gain Royal Assent by May 2015. Financial powers and electoral reform would follow in the coming years.
8.7 Anna described the capacity planning work that the Strategic Transformation Service is doing for additional Assembly Members. The current legislative programme was extremely demanding and pressure on current Assembly Members was high. Proposals including scenario planning were to be discussed at the next Assembly Commission meeting.
Committee members advised Claire and Anna against just replicating current structures and services to meet the needs of additional Members. Detailed scenario planning and business process reviews would be key, informed in part by the changes to, and further engagement with, the Scotland and Northern Ireland legislatures.
Effectiveness Survey update
9.1 The Chair updated the Committee on the action plan. He had attended a Commission meeting in July and would discuss with Claire future engagement opportunities.
9.2 Eric and Gareth agreed to look into WAO training options for Audit Committee and circulate any relevant information to members.
- Gareth Watts and Eric Gregory to discuss the Committee’s collective consideration of the new NAO/HM Treasury guidance.
- Eric Gregory and Claire Clancy to discuss opportunities for ACARAC members to liaise with Commission teams.
Papers to note and any other business
10.1 Claire asked Committee members to note that a departure had been incorrectly approved by an official. It had since been signed by the appropriate Head of Service.
10.2 The Clerking team would circulate the February Forward Work Programme with the agreed actions.