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Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee

The role of the Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee is to support the Ombudsman (as Accounting Officer) and the Unitary Board in monitoring the adequacy of the Office's corporate governance and control systems.

Purpose

The Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee ('the Committee') is constituted as a committee of the PHSO Unitary Board ('the Board').

The Committee's role is to support the Board, specifically the Ombudsman and Chief Executive, as Accounting Officer and Accountable Officer, respectively, in monitoring the adequacy of the Office's corporate governance and control systems through:

  • offering objective advice on issues concerning the risk, control and governance of the organisation and associated assurances provided by internal and external audit and other processes
  • constructively challenging, where and when appropriate, executive decisions to ensure that these are the best possible and achieve value for money in the light of the available evidence
  • adding value by helping the Accounting Officer and Accountable Officer ensure good judgment has been exercised.

Membership

Membership of the Committee will consist of non-executive Board members, and an additional non-executive member who is independent of the Board and who is a qualified accountant. The Committee Chair will be one of the non-executive members of the Board and will be appointed by the Ombudsman, in their capacity as Accounting Officer.

Attendance at meetings

A minimum of three members of the Committee will be present for the meeting to be quorate. However, under exceptional circumstances, and with the Chair's agreement, quorum may be reduced to two members if necessitated by circumstances.

In attendance at Committee meetings will also usually be:

  • The Ombudsman (as Accounting Officer)
  • Chief Executive (as Accountable Officer)
  • Executive Director of Finance and Governance
  • Director and/or Assignment Manager of the External Auditor (NAO)
  • Partner/Director appointed PHSO's Head of Internal Audit and/or Senior Manager (outsourced internal audit provider).

Other PHSO executives and senior managers may be asked to attend Committee meetings for consideration of specific items relating to their respective areas of responsibility. This will be agreed with the Committee Chair prior to each meeting.

The Committee will be provided with a secretariat function by the Finance, Facilities, Procurement and Governance directorate.

Frequency of meetings

The Committee will meet at least four times a year, to coincide with key points in the delivery of work from internal audit providers and the NAO.

The Committee may exceptionally meet more than four times a year to discuss specific issues with the agreement of the Chair.

Access

The appointed Head of Internal Audit and the NAO will have free and confidential access to the Committee Chair.

Responsibilities

The Committee will consider and advise the Board, specifically the Accounting Officer and Accountable Officer, on the following matters:

  • the Resource Accounts  (giving particular consideration to those issues listed at Annex A below)
  • accounting policies and practice relevant to the organisation (including compliance with required standards)
  • corporate governance assurances provided by internal and external audit and other assurance processes (the Committee and its activities shall be included in the Governance Statement), and the extent to which corporate governance is embedded throughout PHSO
  • upholding standards of propriety in PHSO business
  • achievement of value for money
  • the plans of internal and external audit, including assessing priorities and promotion of understanding of the role of audit within PHSO
  • the results of audit work including: individual audits, progress, follow-up and annual reports, and management letters
  • the adequacy of management responses to issues raised by internal and external audit; and of compliance with internal audit recommendations
  • the processes for assessing, reporting and owning business risks and their financial implications, including the capability of PHSO’s internal reporting system to provide early warning of control failures and emerging risks
  • the adequacy of PHSO’s assurance arrangements
  • the adequacy of systems of quality assurance for PHSO's core activities
  • the appointment of internal auditors
  • the cost and performance of the internal and external audit services.

In order to undertake its duties effectively, the Committee should be provided with the following:

  • internal and external audit strategy and plans (including planned co-operation between internal and external auditors)
  • progress reports from the Head of Internal Audit on:
    • work performed since the last meeting (with a comparison against work originally planned)
    • update on stage reached in each audit assignment planned
    • results of follow-up work on implementation of audit recommendations
    • key issues arising from internal audit work in the period
  • PHSO's draft combined Annual Report and Resource Accounts (including Governance Statement) for assessment
  • the Head of Internal Audit Annual Report and opinion
  • copies of all internal audit published reports for review and consideration
  • appropriate reports from members and attendees on areas covered by the Committee's remit including risk arrangements, quality assurance etc
  • PHSO’s Risk Register and Assurance Map
  • the External Audit Management Letter
  • proposals for changes of accounting policies
  • report(s) of any suspected fraud or serious irregularity
  • report(s) of any losses and special payments and
  • report(s) of all contracts awarded and/or appointments made through single tender actions of a value exceeding £3,000.

Reporting

Minutes of committee meetings will be submitted to the next available Board meeting.

The Committee will provide the Board, specifically the Accounting Officer and Accountable Officer, with an Annual Report. This will be timed to support the preparation of the Resource Accounts, specifically the Governance Statement.

Where necessitated, the Committee may wish to raise issues of concern to the Board for its attention. On such occasion, the Committee Chair should agree the most appropriate procedure with the Accounting Officer and Accountable Officer.

Effectiveness reviews

The Committee will periodically review its own effectiveness and report the results to the Board. Support arrangements for this will be agreed between the Committee Chair and Accounting Officer and Accountable Officer.

Annex A

Considerations for the Committee in respect of PHSO’s Resource Accounts

Before the Accounting Officer signs off the Annual Report and Financial Statements, the Committee should scrutinise:

  • that the accounting policies in place comply with relevant requirements, particularly the Treasury’s Financial Reporting Manual and Accounts Direction
  • that there has been a robust process in preparing the accounts and annual report
  • whether the accounts and annual report have been subjected to sufficient review by management, and also by the Accounting Officer and/or the Board
  • that when new or novel accounting treatments arise, whether appropriate advice on accounting treatment has been taken
  • whether there is an appropriate anti-fraud policy in place, and whether losses are suitably recorded
  • whether suitable processes are in place to ensure accurate financial records are kept
  • whether suitable processes are in place to ensure regularity and propriety is achieved and
  • whether issues raised by the External Auditors have been given appropriate attention.

The Committee should satisfy itself that the annual financial statements represent fairly the financial position of the organisation.

Before the Accounting Officer signs off the Letter of Representation, the Committee should review it and give particular attention to non-standard issues of representation.

Approved by the PHSO Board on 26 July 2016