Audit and Assurance committee handbook

Guidance on the principles and best practise for the organisation of Audit and Assurance committees.

Annex A: The role of the Chair: good practice

A.1 Role of Chair

The role goes beyond chairing meetings and is key to achieving committee effectiveness. Key activities in addition to committee meetings should include the following.

  • Before each meeting the Chair and the Committee Secretary should meet to discuss and agree the business for the meeting. The Chair should take ownership of, and have final say in, the decisions about what business will be pursued at any particular meeting.
  • Meeting time should be optimised by making sure that all agenda papers are issued in good time and then having each paper summarised outlining the key points, cross referred to the organisational business and risk agenda and stating what action the committee is required to take.
  • The Chair should ensure that after each meeting appropriate reports are prepared from the committee to the Accountable Officer and Board. An annual report to the Accountable Officer and Board should also be provided.
  • The Chair should have bilateral meetings at least annually with the Accountable Officer, the Head of Internal Audit and the External Auditor. In addition, the Chair should meet any people newly appointed to these positions as soon as practicable after their appointment.
  • The Chair should also ensure that all committee members have an appropriate programme of engagement with the organisation and its activities to help them understand the organisation, its objectives, business needs and priorities.
  • The Chair of the Audit and Assurance Committee should establish a mechanism enabling key stakeholders to consider the overall risk and assurance needs (see 5.3).
  • Encouraging good, open relationships between the committee, Accountable Officer, Finance Director and Internal and External Auditors. There are a number of ways that a Chair can encourage this.

The profile of the committee can be raised to support and add weight to audit work by:

  • promoting audit issues internally with relevant Board members and other directors to make sure they appreciate the value of audit;
  • holding managers within the organisation to account for the implementation of audit recommendations; and
  • calling appropriate business heads to meetings, for example, to explain how they are delivering their agreed actions on risks for which they are responsible.
  • Arranging separate meetings for the Chair, Non-Executives and independent members and Internal and External Auditors to help establish open working relationships;
  • Arranging meetings with the Chair, Internal Auditors and the Finance Director etc in the weeks leading up to the committee meeting to discuss areas for the agenda and papers that should be provided;
  • Arranging meetings with the Internal Auditors (and possibly External Audit) immediately before the committee meeting to help give focus to discussions; and
  • The Chair should ensure that there is an appropriate process between meetings for action points arising from committee business to be appropriately pursued. The Chair should also ensure that members who have missed a meeting are appropriately briefed on the business conducted in their absence. Chairs may choose to rely on the Secretariat to take these actions.

A2 Appraisal

The Chair should take the lead in ensuring that committee members are provided with appropriate appraisal of their performance as a committee member and that training needs are identified and addressed. The Chair should seek appraisal of their performance from the Accountable Officer (or Chair of the Board, as appropriate).

The Chair should ensure that there is a periodic review of the overall effectiveness of the committee and of its terms of reference.

A.3 Appointments

The Chair should be involved in the appointment of new committee members, including providing advice on the skills and experience being sought by the committee when a new member is appointed.

The Chair should also be actively involved in the appointment of the Head of Internal Audit.

A.4 Resources

The Chair is responsible for ensuring that the work of the committee is appropriately resourced.



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