Does your paperwork reflect what you want and need it to? Internal audit can help

13th August 2020

As we look ahead to the start of a new academic year, we will inevitably start to undertake the new cycle of reviewing documents and strategic plans.

While doing so, it is wise to look with fresh eyes at key documents to make sure they not only line up with each other where necessary (for example, Scheme of Delegation and Finance policy), but also reflect the actual operations and activity desired. Don’t just change the date and reapprove!

Internal audit exercises recently have highlighted a number of instances where, with the best of intentions and apparently recently reviewed documents, this has not quite been the case. The result is that there is potential for the actual activity not being as cohesive as it should be.

There are key themes forming:
 

  1. Schemes of delegation are at risk of being an afterthought and the document in not “living” in practice (or clearly articulated in the document and understood).
  2. LGB activity across MATs can become inconsistent in function
  3. The role and remit of local governance isn’t clear and misunderstood
  4. The information received by the board for trust wide oversight isn’t always effective enough

As MATs grow and the need for these documents to be correct becomes ever more important. Communication through to the board is critical and the importance of local school level scrutiny fundamentally important.

This is particularly relevant in MATs where local governance should be the eyes and ears of the board and yet what the documents say they should be undertaking may not line up with what is happening in practice. In this event there s a risk that effective governance principles and practices are weakened.

Some tips for maintaining good oversight include:

  1. Make your Scheme of Delegation clear, spelling out in straight forward terms, exactly what the boundaries, role and remit of any local governance is; make sure it actually reflects what you want them to do. Finance may be done centrally, but is there a need for local budget monitoring? Either way, be clear upon the boundaries. 
  2. If the local governance is purely focused on educational scrutiny, say so.
  3. Make sure the document lives in practice – undertake check and quality assure any local governance activity. Any paperwork is only as effective as the practice actually undertaken.
  4. Ensure the local governors understand their delegated role and function clearly.
  5. Check for consistency across your MAT, for local governance practice and communication
  6. Set out in plain terms the type of consistent regular information, that you want from the local governors 
  7. Foster the right questions in challenge, it’s quality rather than quantity. What are your governors really needing to know to address the matter at hand?

It is essential that each level of governance is clear about what they are asked to be doing, where their boundaries are and what the trustees (i.e. those legally and morally responsible) need to know.

The value of internal audit lies in the outcome, recommendations and actions arising from the process. Make sure that your programme for the year ahead will really add value to giving the trustees genuine assurance on matters that count.

Contact us for help and advice on directing your internal audit.

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