Audit Committee responses 21.11.13‏

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Q.1 Relates to Paper B Annual Audit Letter (App A p5) states:

 

“While we accept that there have been time consuming and sensitive renegotiations of the SWO contract during the year, the response to our recommendations has been slower than expected and less comprehensive. We recommend that the Director of Finance and Performance prepares a report to the Audit Committee explicitly identifying the weaknesses in the SWO contract letting and monitoring process and the specific actions that the Council has taken to address them.”

 

What lessons have learnt from letting and managing the SW0 contract that can be applied to other existing and potentially future contracts?

 

Answer 1

 

The SCC Client team over the past four years has obviously assembled a great deal of information about what works well and what does not in terms of the SWO contract. This information was also reviewed and analysed by Pinsent Mason, the legal firm who assisted in the recent renegotiation of the contract.

 

The learning from this has been shared with lead commissioners within the Authority with two directors, Richard Williams and Kevin Nacey, speaking to the commissioning managers about their experience. The in-house legal team has also been informed and future contracts will benefit from this.

 

In short, the lessons learnt can be summarised as:

 

  • Do not make contracts overly complicated
  • Partnerships depend upon having similar incentives and a mutual understanding of each partner’s requirements
  • The Client function monitoring a major contract needs to be adequately resourced
  • Performance indicators need to be meaningful rather than simply what can be measured
  • Contract periods need to be different for different services as the pace of change is different
  • The secondment model and the TUPE model have wide ranging impacts upon the rest of the contract

 

 

Q.2 Relates to Paper C IT Controls Report

 

a) When is it anticipated that the “6 items are still outstanding” (3.5) will be resolved?

 

SCC cannot answer this question definitively. We await confirmation from SWO as to the likely completion dates. Suffice to say that it is difficult to give a firm date to any of the outstanding issues. Item 1 of the outstanding list has been promised now for over 4 years. We are making progress but slowly as resources are limited.

 

b) In section 5.1 it states “Further work may be necessary, in conjunction with Taunton Deane and Avon and Somerset Police, to determine what level of assurance can be taken from South West One’s responses and mitigations of the audit findings as presented.” Is this, in effect, relying on self-monitoring by Southwest One?

 

We do believe that between the three partners, and with the help of our external auditors, we have sufficient expertise to independently assess the level of assurance and therefore we are not reliant upon self-monitoring by SWO.

 

c) ” Clarify if the current access controls leave the Council liable to challenge from the Information Commissioner.” was the External Auditors recent recommendation.  Has this issue now been addressed?

 

It is still being addressed as part of the dialogue between the authorities and SWO.

 

 

Q.3 Relates to the Corporate Risk Register. (ORG0009)

 

a) Why do the control measure “Implement activities to address the recommendations arising from Ofsted’s Announced Inspection of Safeguarding & LAC services In Progress (20% complete)” and” Increase Children’s Social Care To be confirmed capacity to acceptable levels to address performance issues identified by Ofsted In Progress (25% complete)” have no control owner?

 

b) Also why do the control measures “Implement Munro recommendations To be confirmed and reforms with a view to improving best practice and skill set In Progress (20% complete) 31/03/2013 Reduce the delays to children in care To be confirmed proceedings In Progress (20% complete)” also have no control owners?

 

a) and b)

 

I understand that the staff restructure within Children’s services is underway and at the time of printing appointments are still being made. The overall risk owner, Peter Lewis, is by default the control owner if there are vacancies and a named individual has not been identified.

 

 

 

Q.4 The reply to our Q.1 from the September 2013 AC meeting indicated that the public sector partners (PSP) in SW0 “do not consider the outstanding losses to be an issue for them.”

a) Does this mean that if SW0 were to go insolvent the PSP would not pick up any liability?

 

Yes. In SCC’s view the outstanding losses do not fall upon any of the three public sector bodies.

 

b) What impact would a failing Joint Venture Company have on the reputation of Public Private Partnerships?

 

If by failing, you mean that it became insolvent, I doubt that this event would have too much effect on the reputation of public private partnerships. 

 

 

c) What Lessons can be learnt?

 

In general terms, it is widely accepted that this was an ambitious venture trying to deliver a wide range of services with authorities of a different nature. Its complexity is there for all to see. Commissioners of future services will no doubt bear this in mind and we will see collaborations that are less problematic and targeted at service providers with a specialism in a given service.    

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