Due to the impact of the pandemic boards have had to adjust procedures to reflect the realities of remote working and absences, holding board meetings by telephone or video and reviewing schemes of delegation to ensure decisions can be made appropriately.
In relation to the internal scrutiny requirements, whilst in-person review visits to organisations would be inappropriate at present, it is at boards’ discretion whether remote checks are feasible and helpful in managing risk during school/ college closures.
Looking further forward, audit committees may find that the current unique circumstances can help shape their plans for internal scrutiny and crisis management in the future.
The financial statements require Trust/ Corporations to make clear statements over governance, risk and regularity. What support is available to members to allow them to make these statements especially if the planned internal scrutiny/audit work has not been completed?
How has assurance been gained? Can value for money be demonstrated from decisions taken? Are existing safeguards operational during these unprecedented times?
There is an inherent expectation from the ESFA that board assurance has been retained through these difficult times with organisations continuing to apply existing procedures although delivered in a slightly different way.
Is this a fair assumption?
Boards may be working differently but the order of business and legal responsibilities have not changed.
If your internal audit function has not been able to complete all assignments what impact has this had on your annual assurance framework and has alternative work been completed to take account of any shortcoming in the planned scrutiny?
The same level of scrutiny is required and systems need to evolve as working practices change. Therefore, documentation becomes more important to be able to demonstrate due process and challenge has been discharged as well as providing context to decisions.
In an uncertain world you are not expected to have a crystal ball and know all the answers. However, you are expected to use your collective skills as a board to make measured decisions that are backed up by facts.