Minutes of the VSS Audit and Risk Committee

Wednesday 14 April 2021, 14:00pm

Remote via Zoom



ARC Members Present:

Colm Doran (CD) ARC Member (Chair)

Bertha McDougall (BMcD) Board Member

Richard Solomon (RS) Board Member

Briege Lafferty (BL) ARC Member


VSS Officers in Attendance:

Tara Lewsley (TL) Acting Head of Corporate Services

Melissa McCartan (MM) Business Support Officer (minutes)

Others in Attendance:

Sinead Brown (SB) TEO

Marie Mathews (MM) TEO

Lisa Malcolmson (LM) EY (Internal Audit)

Kathy Doey (EB) NIAO




A Apologies


Apologies received from Margaret Bateson, VSS, David Murray, VSS and Pauline Poots, EY.

B Minutes of Previous Meeting


The minutes of the previous Audit and Risk Committee meeting held on 19 February 2021 were agreed.


C Action Points


TL provided an update on the outstanding action point, which relates to the new Counter Fraud Functional Standards. Further update to be provided at the next ARC meeting.

D Conflict of Interest


All papers were noted by the Committee and no conflicts of interest were declared.


E Accounting Officer Update


E1 CEO/AO Exception Report


In MBs absence, TL provided an update on the progress against business plan targets and delivering on outcomes. The following key points were highlighted:


-    BACs transition completed in Q4 2020/21 with two-thirds of all recipients now receiving the 2021/22 payment by BACs.

-    9 of 34 delivery plan targets have not been met in the 2020/21 year specifically due to the significant impact of Covid-19. TL noted this has been more than offset with additional services delivered including social isolation initiatives, increased psychological therapies and food and essential parcels etc.

-    VSS made a January 2021 monitoring round bid for 131k of resource to aid preparation for the launch of the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme. This has been awarded and utilised in Q4.

-    The position at the end of Q4 2020/21 is satisfactory. Expenditure in the individual needs based frameworks has increased throughout Q4 and VSS remains confident that the full budget allocation has been utilised in 2020/21.



E2 Progress against Budget


The Committee noted this paper.


E3 Strategic Risk Register


TL provided an update on the Strategic Risk Register.


The Committee noted two risks coming forward have been escalated from amber to red, which relate to PEACE IV cash flow difficulties and the VSS Board being under quota.

Concerns were raised in relation to Board members allocated days being utilised in full. It was noted VSS Chair will raise this issue with TEO to explore all available options.

14.04.21 AP1: VSS Chair to raise STG50 with TEO and explore all available options in respect of Board allocated days, which is currently set at 30 days.

It was agreed TL will share an analysis of time spent for 20/21 with TEO ahead of the next accountability meeting.


F Quarterly Reports

F1 Quarterly ALB Report


The Committee noted this paper.


F2 Quarterly Assurance Statement


The Committee noted this paper.

F3 Quarterly M&E Report


The Committee noted this paper.


G Internal Audit Update


G1 Internal Audit Update


The Committee noted the following reports;


-       VSS Review of BCP for Pandemic Response

-       VSS Review of Monitoring and Evaluation

-       VSS Follow Up Report


LM provided an update on VSS Annual Assurance Report 2020-21. The following key points were noted:

-       Overall, each report resulted in a satisfactory audit rating, with a total of 13 audit recommendations.

-       EY consider that VSS has a framework of controls in place that provides Satisfactory Assurance over the effective and efficient achievement of the VSSs objectives and the management of key risks.

-       Of the 23 audit recommendations for 2019-20, LM advised 19 have been fully implemented, 3 partially implemented and 1 not implemented. It was noted this was due to the impact of Covid-19.


On behalf of the VSS ARC Committee, the Chairman extended his thanks to LM for the work carried out to complete the 2020-21 audit.



H External Audit Update

H1 2019/20 RTTCWG


KD presented the 2019-20 Report to Those Charged with Governance.

It was noted the 2019-20 Annual Report and Accounts have been certified with an unqualified audit opinion.

The Committee noted the main findings and recommendations arising from the review, along with management responses.

The Chairman thanked NIAO and VSS for facilitating this audit.


I Standing Agenda Items


I1 2019/20 ARC Self-Assessment Report and Action Plan (No paper)



I2 ARC Training Update and Requirements


The Committee noted this paper.


I3 Audit Recommendations


The Committee noted this paper.


I4 Gifts and Hospitality Update


The Committee noted this paper.


I5 Compliance Update


TL provided the Committee with an update on the four suspected fraud cases open at the quarter end.


The Committee noted that one case is still awaiting a CCNI Final Report and that further contact has been made with CCNI in January 2021 but no response has been received to date. Of the 3 active cases open at the quarter end, all have been referred on to TEO and GFIS, who have subsequently engaged the PSNI/Gardai.


Of the four debtor balances identified at quarter end, it was noted all cases are actively being sought by VSS, with one referred on to legal.

The Committee noted that there were two whistleblowing allegations raised in respect of funded organisations during the period. TL advised initial investigations have found no evidence to substantiate these allegations. One allegation has been closed, one remains open pending approval of the investigation report.

Two new Ombudsman complaints were received in the quarter. A full response has been prepared and submitted to NIPSO for both and VSS await further communication.

There are no ongoing governance reviews at 31 March 2021 and no assembly questions received.

The Committee noted that three FOI requests were received during the quarter, from one individual. The response to the third request is currently being prepared and is expected to be released within the required timeframe.

It was noted six complaints were made to VSS in the quarter. All complaints were closed within 10 working days, except for one complaint that was passed to a complaints panel appointed by the VSS Chair for investigation. TL advised none of the complaints were upheld and no complaints are currently open at the quarter end.

TL provided an update on call handling for Q4 2020-21. The Committee noted a spike in calls in February and March, which was largely down to client queries in respect of the reopening of the SDA Bereaved Scheme, Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme and the INP 21/22 launch.

GDPR Update

Three data incidents were recorded during the period, however, no personal data was at risk and so these are not considered to be reportable data breaches.

One Data Sharing Agreement is still outstanding from a VSP funded group. TL advised work is ongoing on this matter but existing data sharing agreements remain in place.

I6 Procurement Update


The Committee noted this paper.


I7 Data Protection


Covered in I4.


J Any Other Business


Nothing further to note.


K Date of Next Meeting


The next VSS Audit and Risk Committee meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 21 July 2021.