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Council / Councillors reassured over progress after audit finds areas of improvement

Lerwick Town Hall. Photo: Shetland News
Lerwick Town Hall. Photo: Shetland News

INTERNAL audits of three areas of council work have come back with generally good results, although some scope for improvement was noted – especially in IT.

The reports were presented to a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) audit committee on Tuesday morning.

Internal auditor Duncan Black looked at the management of the pupil equity funding, fostering services and IT controls, and action will be taken by the SIC to respond to all recommendations for improvement.

The most recommendations came for the IT service, which also had a wide-ranging audit, although it provided a “reasonable level of assurance”.

Nine recommendations were made, including suitably protecting data back-ups and testing the service recovery plan.

ICT manager Susan Msalila reassured members that back-ups are held separately to the council’s main system and that all recommended improvements were being worked on.

Lerwick member Stephen Leask asked Black if the high level IT recommendations were “serious issues”.

“It is important that these issues are rectified as soon as possible,” he replied, although the situation overall was more positive.

Black said, however, the result of the IT audit was a “judgement” and was borderline towards a less positive assurance.

There was also a “reasonable level of assurance” for the management of foster care services, Black said.

Four recommendations were made in this area, including reviewing the payment of fees process to ensure it is up to date, and refreshing the authorisation process for foster care payments to ensure it includes an additional approval check.

Black said the audit was broad in scope. “I think it’s quite reassuring that the opinion is reasonable.”

A “satisfactory level of assurance”, meanwhile, was returned when it came to the management of pupil equity funding, which is money received from the Scottish Government based on the number of children receiving free school meals.

Only one recommendation was made – that pupil equity funding guidance available to head teachers is updated.

During debate Shetland Central councillor Moraig Lyall said members should be well aware of the importance of cyber security, and while the audit result was “concerning” it was perhaps not surprising due to the scale of the organisation.

She added that it was reassuring that the audit process had identified the areas for improvement.

Lerwick member John Fraser, meanwhile, said when taking account of the reports and the responses from SIC management, “it’s my opinion […] that the Shetland Islands Council are more than adequately adhering to the statuary obligations and responsibilities”.

Considering IT sparked much of the discussion, there was a hint of irony that the meeting – which saw councillors take part both in Lerwick Town Hall and at home by remote link – was 15 minutes late in starting due to a laptop in the chamber updating its software.

Chairman Councillor Allison Duncan said the mishap was “outwith my control”.