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Audit and Accountability Meeting Minutes - 11 December 2023

01 Feb 2024


Welcome and Apologies
PIRC Annual Report 2022/23
Independent Auditor’s Report - Opinion on financial statements
Meeting Scheduled 2024

Audit and Accountability Committee 
Catherine Dyer (Chair) 
Elizabeth Humphreys (LH) (attending via MS Teams) 
Michelle Wailes (MW) 
Robert Scott (RS) 

Michelle Macleod Commissioner (MML) 
Phil Chapman Director of Operations (PC) 
Sharon Smit Accountable Officer/Head of Corporate Services (SS) 
Ruth McCallum Secretariat (RMC) 

Brian Battison Audit Scotland (BB) 
Hollie Adams RSM (HA) (attending via MS Teams 1245 – 1425 hours)

Welcome and Apologies

The Chair welcomed everyone to the PIRC Audit and Accountability Committee (AAC). 

Apologies were noted from John McCroskie (JMcC), Lena Collins (LC) and Jennifer Fisher (JLF) 

Members agreed to consider agenda items 10-14 in private for the reasons set out on the agenda. 

Declaration of Interests – review and update

RS advised that he had been appointed as a Trustee of the Fire Service Research and Training Trust. He did not foresee any conflict of interest. 

Chair advised that she had provided her contact details to the Sheku Bayou Public Inquiry team who had requested these as the Inquiry might wish her to provide a statement to the Public Inquiry. She advised the meeting that when she was at COPFS she had no direct involvement with PIRC in relation to the PIRC investigation and did not foresee any conflict of interest.

Minutes and actions arising from previous meeting

The minutes of the July 2023 meeting were approved, subject to amendment of section - Declaration of Interests – Review and Update, to; 

‘Following a declaration of interest noted in February 2023, the Chair advised members that the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency had concluded their review and submitted a report to the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.’ 

Action Log 
The action log was reviewed - all completed actions were removed. 

Presentation – PIRC Web Development Project 
Rhoda Braddick (RB) Communications Manager, delivered a presentation on PIRC’s web development project. The presentation detailed how the project was managed from start to finish, highlighting the use of focus groups and managing Digital Scotland Service Standard (DSSS) requirements. RB showed members an example of completing a Complaint Handling Request (CHR) application on the new website. 

Members noted the content of the presentation. Members commented favourably on the length of time taken to complete this project and acknowledged the benefits to both internal and external users.


Commissioner’s Report 
MML provided a written update to members (circulated in advance), on a range of ongoing work, including: 

  • Sheku Bayoh Public Inquiry
  • Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill (PECS Bill)
  • Civil Case
  • Disclosure of PIRC reports 
  • Stakeholder Engagements 

Sheku Bayou Public Inquiry 
MML advised that January will see increased pressure on PIRC resources due to PIRC witnesses attending the hearing in January. She advised that considerable time is being spent by PIRC witnesses to provide statements by written procedure (Rule 8). This has an impact on resources and possibly on KPIs.   

EH asked if there was employee support for staff. SS said there was free access to the Employee Assistance Service and PIRC Wellbeing Advisors were also available to provide support. SG Sponsor Team were supportive and aware of these pressures, both in terms of physical and financial resources. Access to the office will be provided to former employees to assist their preparation if they so wish. 

RS commented that there is valuable learning to be captured and that it would be prudent to evaluate all the associated Public Inquiry costs such as staff time taken up with PI work, overtime costs etc. 

Disclosure of PIRC reports 
MML advised that engagement is taking place with Police Scotland and COPFS in regard to the disclosure of PIRC reports.  Some PIRC reports contain sensitive information and have normally been confidential. Sharon Clelland, Head of Legal Services and MML will roll out training on dealing with such requests. 

Members noted the updates provided. 

Risk and Control 
SS provided members with a verbal summary of the Risk and Control reports (circulated in advance). 

Risk Movement Report 
SS advised that there have been no changes to any risk scores from the previous quarter although this will change should the response to the Business Case for additional funding for legal costs and the pay award not be favourable. 

History Report showing Action Changes 
SS advised that the History Report provided a detailed summary of all changes made to risk actions to date.   

LH commented that it was helpful to see history report and it was good evidence of PIRC risk management, however, it would be more helpful to see a summary which explains the controls in place and the key actions being taken for each risk. This would make it easier to understand how risks are being managed and enable AAC to offer advice where they could. 

SS said that the risk system can generate different reports and she is happy to circulate a draft alternative before the next meeting.  This will give an idea on what can be generated and allow AAC to determine key areas on which they would like to see more information. 

AP – SS to provide an example report from risk system for consideration 

Audit Action Log 
Update provided 

Members noted the updates provided. 

Internal Audit

SS provided members with a verbal update on completed internal audits. 

SS noted that RSM has concluded an audit of productions. Final report issued prior to meeting. 

SS commented that all actions in productions audit are completed. 

SS noted that RSM has recently concluded an audit of the provision of training. Final report was issued prior to meeting. SS commented that there were two medium and three low level audit actions identified during the audit. The audit report has just been received and, in first instance, a communication will go out to staff to ensure they complete their training logs. Plans to address other actions are in hand. RS asked about the format of the training log. SS replied that this was an excel spreadsheet which staff were required to update manually.  Mandatory training such as iHasco Health and Safety training was facilitated online and recorded on staff accounts. One-to one meetings with managers were important to highlight the need to maintain training records. 

MW commented that it would be good to know when the audit actions were closed and audit had competed their review. This would allow assurances to be checked and how they achieved the desired outcome.   

Internal Audit - RSM 
HA provided members with a detailed summary of Productions Audit, Training Audit and the Internal Audit Progress Report 1 November 2023 (all circulated in advance), noting the following: 

Production audit - Audit identified 2 high, 1 medium and 3 low actions 
Training audit – report has just been finalised and identified 2 medium and 3 low actions 
Progress Report – no issues on progress report which has just been finalised 

Members noted the update provided. 

External Audit – Audit Scotland 
BB provided members with a verbal update in relation to the annual audit, currently being undertaken by Audit Scotland. 

BB advised members that there were no annual accounts or annual report as yet. This was due to delays within Audit Scotland and the absence of key staff. Senior auditors will be checking the audit  and, thereafter, will have a clearer picture to answer any further questions. BB hopes to provide an audit report next week, if outstanding points are cleared. Following an update on what is outstanding from senior auditors, BB will provide an opinion on timescales early next week. 

This is Audit Scotland’s first year so they are still learning about PIRC. Aware that some information supplied by SG to other organisations was not same as that supplied to PIRC. Will speak to SG to ensure the correct information is provided for next year. 

MW asked if the audit team were on site in our office for the wash up. BB agreed that it was much easier to have face to face meetings particularly in the first year. Meeting for 22nd November may need to be delayed if there any further delays to audit. 

AP5 – Draft Audit Report to be circulated to members when available. 

Members noted the update provided.

Update: Meeting on 22 November cancelled as auditors have advised that they are struggling to close off the IFRS16 part of the accounts due to inconsistencies in the information that they have received from SG. New meeting scheduled for 11 December 2023.


Management Accounts to end June 2023 
SS provided a summary of the Management Accounts as at end of June 2023 (circulated in advance), highlighting the following areas: 

SS advised of two key outstanding pressures: 

  • Legal costs for Public Inquiry – Forecasting £160K o/spend in this financial year. 
  • Cost of pay award 

PIRC has submitted a business case to SG for additional funding for these two key pressures. Awaiting  a response. SG Sponsor team has been helpful in streamlining key priorities. An update will be provided at meeting on 11 December 2023. 

Members noted the updates provided.

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