Agenda and minutes

Venue: Remote - Digital. View directions

Contact: Clerk: Kathryn Hughes  Deputy Clerk: Buddug Saer

No. Item


Introductions, apologies and declaration of interests


1.1           The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and formally welcomed Ken Skates to his first meeting.

1.2           The Chair noted that, as Dave Tosh was due to retire from the Senedd Commission in January 2022, this would be his last meeting. He wished Dave a happy and healthy retirement and thanked him for all his support and advice over the last three years.


Minutes of 18 June, actions and matters arising


ARAC (05-21) Paper 1 - Minutes of 18 June 2021

ARAC (05-21) Paper 2 – Actions summary

2.1          The minutes of the 18 June meeting had been formally agreed by the Committee in July and there were no further comments to note. All outstanding actions had been addressed. 



COVID-19 - Corporate update

Oral item


Oral update

3.1           Dave confirmed that the Covid Resilience and Monitoring Group (CRAM) continued to monitor the latest Welsh Government regulations and guidance. The numbers attending the estate had reduced significantly since the Chief Executive and Llywydd issued a joint message urging those who could work from home to continue to do so. He assured the Committee that those attending were essential to plenary and committee business and were adhering to guidance, for example, around wearing face masks and physical distancing. Stringent measures taken for the Official Opening of the Sixth Senedd (Royal Opening) had ensured a safe event with no spike in infection rates.

3.2           Dave advised that there had been an increase in the number of protests on the estate. One of these was an impromptu and aggressive protest relating to a plenary debate around the Covid vaccination passport regulations, with attempts to cause disruption for those attending and leaving the estate. The Security team would continue to monitor Senedd business to anticipate protests and work with the Police to share and respond to any intelligence on planned or unplanned protests.

3.3           In response to an increase in threats to Members of the Senedd, primarily on social media, Dave and Kevin Tumelty, Head of Security had attended Party group meetings to remind Members of the support available to them. 

3.4           When questioned on the possibility of future hybrid meetings of the Committee, Dave advised that the guidance given to the wider organisation, which was for meetings to remain virtual wherever possible, would need to be followed, until the Welsh Government issued updated guidelines.

3.5           In response to a question from the Chair around the effectiveness and ongoing ‘fitness for purpose’ of CRAM, Dave outlined the work of the group. This included monitoring the latest regulations and Government guidelines, thoroughly assessing risks for all activities and events and advising the Executive Board and Senedd Commission. He felt this was working effectively. He also reflected on the latest Pulse survey results which highlighted the strain on staff across the organisation as the requirement to work from home continued.   

3.6           The Committee requested an update on the use of the Welsh language in the workplace, given that MS Teams could not accommodate simultaneous translation. Arwyn Jones confirmed that Members of the Senedd were using a new Zoom Professional product to communicate bilingually with their constituents and he was satisfied that there had not been a reduction in the use of the Welsh language in the organisation.


Governance and Assurance update (inc. progress of Internal Audit activity)


ARAC (05-21) Paper 3 – G&A update report

4.1       Gareth Watts provided an update on overall governance and assurance activity which he and his team were undertaking. This included early preparation for this year’s Governance Statement. Kathryn Hughes had met with all Heads of Service as part of the annual series of ‘governance matters’ meetings which had provided an opportunity to review their statements from the previous year and discuss the process for this year. She had then commissioned draft Assurance Statements which were due to be reviewed by Directors in December. 

4.2       Gareth also outlined the reviews he and his team were undertaking around: the Commission’s approach to corporate and service planning; performance management, including the Key Performance Indicators; and business continuity plans. In response to questions about the role of Leadership Team in relation to risk management, Gareth explained that formalisation of their input, particularly around the escalation of risks was being considered following a review of its terms of reference.

4.3       Gareth then provided an update on progress against his internal audit programme. As well as completing the review of the Commission’s payroll arrangements (see item 5), the work he had been carrying out with the Members Business Support Team to test the payment of resettlement grants and redundancy to departing Members and their support staff was substantially complete. Further work on the winding up of Members’ offices including a review of the return of ICT assets and disposal of other assets was ongoing and this would involve engaging with outgoing Members. He hoped to be in a position to circulate his reports in advance of the next meeting. 

4.4       Gareth advised that the scopes for the audits of cyber security and the value for money review on Library Services had been developed and that fieldwork for these would commence in December/January. 

4.5       Aled Eirug asked if the issue of archiving of tapes could be included in the scope of the Library Services audit. In response, Dave informed the Committee of on-going discussions with the National Library of Wales around their capability to digitally transfer data stored on tapes into long term media, to ensure an accessible and long term preservation of records.


Consider latest Internal Audit reports


5.1       Gareth introduced the Payroll audit report explaining that, as this was one of the Commission’s most material financial system, he undertook a review every 2-3 years. As restrictions allowed, he had been able to meet face to face with Payroll colleagues to walk through the system. The review had resulted in a moderate assurance rating with five recommendations. The main areas identified for improvement were around updating policies and resilience within the team. Progress on these recommendations would be revisited in March and details would be captured in his Annual Report and Opinion, due for consideration at the April meeting. 

5.2       In response to questions from the Committee around benchmarking payroll capability against best practice, Gareth confirmed that the Commission had been accredited with a Better Payroll award in 2018, and would seek an update from HR on any future plans to renew this accreditation.

5.3       In response to questions around the monitoring of leave and flexible working hours, Gareth confirmed that a separate system was used for these as well as Personal Development Reports. He added that HR had recently implemented a Microsoft forms system to capture monthly credit/debit flexi balances, which would prove extremely useful management information for the Finance team at year end.

5.4       The Chair was content with the detailed report and welcomed an update on the recommendations in due course.

Action: Share details of current accreditation of the payroll function with ARAC and discuss with HR plans for future benchmarking/accreditation


Review HMT/other guidance for Audit and Risk Assurance Committees

Oral item


Oral update

6.1       Gareth Watts and the Chair confirmed that there had been no updates to the HMT Audit and Risk Assurance Committee handbook. Gareth and Kathryn had attended a CIPFA Better Governance Forum webinar which was introducing updated guidance for police and local authority audit committees but Gareth noted that there was little of relevance to the Commission. Kathryn would continue to share any relevant articles from the Better Governance Forum and other bodies such as the National Audit Office.  

6.2    Gareth updated the Committee on the new functional standards which applied to all UK Government departments to promote consistency. He reminded the Committee that the Commission was not compelled to apply the standards but he would work with his counterparts in other organisations and colleagues across the Commission to determine what (if any) best practice could be adopted. The Chair was encouraged by the Commission’s approach to this guidance and saw it as something to take advantage of.


2021 Audit Plan and Audit Wales update report (inc. AW reports/outputs)


ARAC (05-21) Paper 5 – Audit Wales 2021 Audit Plan 

ARAC (05-21) Paper 6 – Audit Wales ARAC Update Nov 2021

7.1       The Chair welcomed Ann-Marie Harkin and Gareth Lucey to the meeting.

7.2       Gareth referred to the plan for the 2021 audit of the Commission’s accounts which included details of the team, timings and risks to be built in. The aim was to carry out some early testing between January and March, with the substantive audit beginning in May and presentation of the ISA 260 report to the Committee in June 2022.

7.3       As most Audit Wales staff continued to work from home, the audit team would continue to work and engage with the Commission remotely. They would continue to monitor Welsh Government guidelines on working from home and liaise with officials to determine whether any of the audit work could be carried out on site.

7.4       They were unable to disclose the fee for this year’s audit as yet, although an increase on the previous year’s fee was likely. This information would be shared with Committee members when available. 

7.5       Gareth then summarised the financial audit risks and the audit work planned in response. Whilst many of the risks were stable, there were additional risks specific to this year around the Senedd Elections and the Remuneration Board’s Determination which would need to be taken account of.

7.6       A further risk around the classification of capital expenditure had also been added due to the issue around last minute differences of opinion in the 2020-21 audit. Whilst it was recognised that this was a minor part of overall Commission spend, Audit Wales would work with the Finance team to agree the classification of project spend. Nia Morgan welcomed the early dialogue with Audit Wales and advised that her team were already working to identify project expenditure to inform discussions around classification. She assured the Committee that she would keep them informed of discussions with Audit Wales.

7.7       The Committee urged the Commission and Audit Wales to reach a common understanding of International Accounting Standard 16, well in advance of the planned audit, to ensure that both parties agreed on the classification of expenditure.

7.8       The Chair thanked Audit Wales for the clearly set out audit plan and welcomed sight of the other work undertaken by Audit Wales. He was keen to maintain constructive engagement with Audit Wales and the Auditor General.


Finance update


ARAC (05-21) Paper 7 - Update on 2021-22 Financial Position and 2022-23 Budget 

8.1       Nia Morgan introduced the finance update paper which set out the latest financial position for 2021-22 and provided an update on the work to deliver the 2022-23 budget, details of which had been circulated out of committee.

8.2       The 2021-22 corporate financial targets were to deliver an end of year operational out-turn in the range of 0% to 1.5% of the approved operational budget and an unqualified audit opinion. The forecast out-turn at the end of October was for a 2.1% underspend which was currently outside the target. She outlined how the Leadership Team and Executive Board were reviewing the priority facilities items and considering ICT projects which could be brought forward from the next financial year. This would also alleviate pressures on the 2022-23 budget.

8.3       The draft 2022-23 Commission budget was laid on 29 September and the evidence session with Finance Committee was held on 8 October. The Committee’s report and the Commission’s response had been shared out of committee. The final budget was laid on 10 November and was debated and approved in plenary on 17 November.


PAPAC and Finance Committee update

Oral item


Oral update

9.1       Ken Skates thanked Nia and her team for a smooth process in preparation for appearances at the Senedd Committees and for all the briefings they had provided to him as the Commissioner with responsibility for the budget and governance. 

9.2       The Commission had accepted the Finance Committee’s nine recommendations, with one accepted in principle. Ken outlined the rationale for accepting in principle the recommendation around finding savings as opposed to seeking supplementary budgets, which had been highlighted to the both committees. The Committee discussed the difficulties around anticipating and responding to in-year pressures when the Commission, unlike many organisations, did not have any contingency budget and is not able to build a reserve through revenue. Nia confirmed that a supplementary budget would be submitted only if it becomes necessary.

9.3       In response to questions from Committee members around strategies to manage in-year pressures, Nia described how she worked closely with the Estates and Facilities and the ICT and Broadcasting management teams to ensure that the budget was fully utilised each year, with spend being brought forward or pushed back depending on lead times etc. She added that the potential project to replace the windows in Tŷ Hywel had been highlighted at every opportunity to the Finance Committee to ensure there were no surprises.

9.4       Audit Wales also recognised the difficulties planning budgets without the ability to build reserves and endorsed the Commission’s approach around the option of requesting a supplementary budget and keeping the Finance Committee informed. 

9.5       Manon also commented on the challenges around planning budgets and noted that the approach of requesting supplementary budgets as opposed to holding contingency funds added to transparency in light of the extensive scrutiny of the Commission’s budgets and accounts.    

9.6       The Chair congratulated the team on its management of budgets, despite the challenges and wanted to pay tribute to everyone involved.


Corporate Risk


ARAC (05-21) Paper 8 – Corporate Risk

ARAC (05-21) Paper 8 – Annex A -  Summary Corporate Risk Register

ARAC (05-21) Paper 8 – Annex B – Corporate Risks plotted         

10.1    The Chair welcomed Siwan Davies and Matthew Richards to the meeting.

10.2    Dave Tosh confirmed that the risks had been reviewed and updated by risk owners.

10.3    The Committee welcomed the movements in the Corporate Risk Register which they noted had been agreed by Executive Board to reflect changes to the risk profile. The Committee noted the inclusion of new risks around Senedd reform and data protection and the refocussing of the Covid-related risk to reflect corporate resilience and the measures to reduce the likelihood of introducing infections.

10.4    The Committee were pleased with the updates and level of detail which provided a breadth of information for them to consider. The Chair also commented on the clear presentation of the risk environment and found the diagram, where the risks were plotted onto a matrix, useful. Officials were encouraged to engage with the Committee at appropriate points, particularly in relation to current arrangements or any changes to the regulatory framework.


Action: Revisit the mitigation around the regulatory framework risk in the summer – for the current arrangements.


Critical examination of one identified or emerging risk - Adherence in 6th Senedd to changes to Members' regulatory framework

Oral item around CRR update



Oral update

11.1    The Chair invited Siwan to introduce this item, and welcomed Sulafa Thomas, Head of Commission and Members’ Support, Anna Daniel, Head of Strategic Transformation Service and Meriel Singleton, Clerk to the Standards of Conduct Committee and lead on the work relating to the regulatory framework, to the meeting. 

11.2    Siwan referred to the detailed update included in the Corporate Risk Register and outlined the key elements of the regulatory framework as they applied to Members of the Senedd (Members) as follows:

-       the new Code of Conduct which had been applied since the start of the Sixth Senedd and the ongoing review of complaints procedures relating to this code;

-       the Independent Remuneration Board’s Determination on Members’ Pay and Allowances which came into force at the start of the Sixth Senedd;

-       the Accounting Officer’s rules which would shortly be subject of a consultation; and

-       the Members’ Dignity and Respect policy.

11.3    Siwan described the co-ordinated approach being established for these regulatory matters relating to Members, involving relevant officials from across the Commission. She also described the routes for engaging with relevant groups such as Chiefs of Staff and the new Senedd Political Contact Group which has been established for the Llywydd and Chief Executive to engage with Members.

11.4    In response to questions from the Committee about its role in relation to the regulatory framework, and that of the Remuneration, Engagement and Workforce Advisory Committee, Siwan described how the Commission would consult and engage with each committee as appropriate.

11.5    When asked for his perspective on the approach to managing this risk, Ken Skates recognised the challenges around engagement with Members and suggested that short briefing sessions with Party groups might be the most effective way to engage.

11.6    The Committee welcomed the establishment of this coordinated approach and recognised the challenges of making a complex framework comprehensible to ensure Members and all office holders understood their responsibilities. The Chair thanked officials for sharing the briefing issued to the Political Contact Group which clearly set out responsibilities of the bodies involved in the regulatory framework.

11.7    The Committee discussed ways in which presentation of the elements of the framework might be simplified and communicated effectively. Ann Beynon suggested a flowchart on how the elements of the framework fit together might be helpful, particularly for new Members which Siwan agreed to consider.

11.8    Siwan added that the aim of this co-ordinated approach was to help Members understand the rules as they applied to them and to clarify routes for them to seek further advice. In response to questions about timescales, Siwan confirmed that there were a number of discrete tasks to be taken forward in relation to each element of the framework and that the approach would be used as a vehicle going forward to facilitate and co-ordinate any future changes and also to ensure officials were consulting with appropriate groups.

11.9    In response to questions about any overlap in areas of responsibility for the bodies  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Update on the transition to the Sixth Senedd


ARAC (05-21) Paper 9 - Transition to the Sixth Senedd

12.1    The Chair invited Sulafa Thomas to introduce this item. She reminded the Committee that, at its meeting on 18 June, it undertook a detailed examination of the transition to the Sixth Senedd, and had requested a further update at this meeting. The paper presented details of the flexible approach adopted for delivery of the transition and included details of the lessons learned and the management of risk.

12.2    The Committee congratulated officials on delivering such a successful outcome, particularly given the additional complex challenges posed by the pandemic and the need to respond to changing Covid-19 regulations and deliver transition activities in different ways. Committee members were also impressed with the high quality documentation of the lessons learned in the update paper.   

12.3    In response to questions around the impact of Covid-19 on discussions relating to the use of office space, Sulafa advised that the Commission had been presented with a paper outlining future agile working possibilities that included hybrid and flexible working patterns. The Chair agreed to pick up the questions about the future accommodation strategy under item 18.

12.4    Discussion then moved onto the success of the Official Opening of the Sixth Senedd which the Chair noted had been well organised. Sulafa described how Arwyn Jones and his team had planned to deliver mostly virtual events but that changes to regulations had made it possible for more in-person activities. She also outlined the challenges around planning activities at a time when Covid-19 regulations were changing and how decisions were based on rigorous assessment of the risks. This had been resource intensive but worthwhile to balance the desire to deliver an important symbolic event, and providing a positive experience for all involved whilst keeping everyone safe. It had been a very successful and well received event and Arwyn was pleased to report that external assurances on the internal processes had confirmed that the mitigations put in place were effective.

12.5    Ken Skates wanted to record his thanks for all of the arrangements which had resulted in a fantastic day and noted the positive experience for Members who had been delighted with the success of the event. 

12.6    Aled Eirug also congratulated the team. He also asked officials for their thoughts on the recommendations from the report produced by Prof. Diana Stirbu’s on the Power, Influence and Impact of Senedd Committees which had been shared with Committee members. Siwan advised that the recommendations had been endorsed and work was underway in conjunction with the Chairs’ Forum to take the recommendations forward over the course of this Senedd term. Siwan offered to share with Committee members further briefing that had been prepared to inform this. She would also seek to share the outcome of this ground-breaking use of academic research with other legislatures.


Action: Share further briefing relating to Prof. Diana Stirbu’s report on the Power, Influence and Impact of Senedd Committees.



Commission's strategy for sixth Senedd

Oral item


Oral item

13.1    Manon presented details of the strategy for the Sixth Senedd which had been agreed by the Commission at its 8 November meeting. The strategy had been captured in a summary document which had been shared with the Committee in advance of this meeting. Manon described how the strategy, which consisted of three strategic goals and a number of priorities provided a good operational guide and was underpinned by the Commission’s values. Having taken account of legacy discussions with the previous Commissioners, the strategy reflected a renewed focus on engagement and communications and sustainable use of resources. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) would reflect how the Commission would be held to account for delivery against these goals and priorities.

13.2    The Chair considered this a good high level starting point to enable the development of a golden thread running through to delivery of services and measurement of performance through KPIs.

13.3    In response to questions about voter turnout as a measure of success, Manon reminded the Committee that it was difficult to attribute this to performance as there were too many factors over which the Commission had no control. She added that there would however be more focus on measuring engagement, in particular the experiences of visitors and those who engaged with Senedd business. Arwyn added that the Commission now had the ability to measure levels of understanding and engagement more effectively, including the use of insight analysis methods.

13.4    The Chair thanked Manon for sharing details of the strategy with the Committee.


Update on cyber-security

Oral item/presentation


Oral item/presentation

14.1    The Chair welcomed Mark Neilson, Jamie Hancock and Tim Bernat to the meeting and invited them to provide their regular update on the Commission’s management of cyber security risks. In response to comments from the Committee, and in particular from the Chair, the team had undertaken work to refine reports to address assurances they were seeking. Mark referred to past use of a ‘spider chart’ to describe the evolving cyber risk landscape and the Commission’s to mitigation. However, it had become apparent that this approach was insufficiently granular or dynamic to provide ongoing assurances to various bodies such as Executive Board, the Commission and this Committee.

14.2    The Chair had helpfully outlined the themes and approach he felt would provide further assurances on the identification and mitigation of the risks which the team had taken on board. These included:

-       a clearer understanding of the threat landscape and how this was evolving;

-       an appropriate balance of hardware and software threats - although with the increased use of cloud technologies there was an inevitable swing towards mitigating software threats;

-       a deeper understanding of the internal and external sources of assurance, including internal audit; and

-       the development of an appropriate infographic or "risk on a page" to outline the threats.

14.3    In order to seek a view from the Committee on the level of detail required to provide adequate assurance, Tim presented a draft of the monthly ICT Cyber Security Threat Report. The report detailed the tools and statistics used, the analysis undertaken and the threat landscape. Tim and Jamie also described the backup system and the tier 3 data centre, which was not managed by Microsoft. They also outlined work underway to further improve the security of data and how they were addressing the challenges around retaining skills in this area. The Committee were pleased to hear that the perceived over-reliance on Microsoft was being addressed and welcomed details of cyber related initiatives planned in the future.

14.4    It was agreed that a copy of the report would be shared with Committee members for them to consider and feed back to Mark and his team which elements to include in the regular reports to the Committee.

14.5    A further discussion then focused on the possibility of a presentation or briefing by the Public Sector Broadband Aggregation (PSBA) and visit to the data centre, the wider skills gap evident in the field of cyber-security and changes to support the use of Mac computers on the network.

14.6    The Chair thanked the team for the clear presentation, and the amount of the work undertaken to develop regular assurance reports.


Action: When available, share a copy of the Cyber Security assurance report with ARAC members.


Information Breaches (twice yearly report)

Oral item


Oral item/presentation

15.1 The Committee noted an update from Dave on one substantive breach and three reports of information being sent to the wrong email recipients. All of these had been quickly resolved and no further action was required.


Departure Summary


ARAC (05-21) Paper 10 – Departure Summary

16.1 The Committee noted two departures from normal procurement procedures.


Feedback on discussions at the Commission's Remuneration, Engagement and Workforce Advisory Committee (REWAC) (29.09.21)

Oral item


Oral item

17.1    Ann welcomed the opportunity to feedback on two recent REWAC meetings. The meeting in November had focused specifically on the report by Prof. Diana Stirbu on the Power, Influence and Impact of Senedd Committees. REWAC members had been impressed with the quality of report. 

17.2    The substantive meeting on 29 September covered the following:

-       the Business Directorate priorities;

-       engagement priorities – it was agreed that the two recently appointed Heads of Service in Arwyn’s service area would attend a future meeting; and

-       defining the evolving relationship between REWAC and ARAC.


Estates Strategy

Oral item


Oral item

18.1    Dave presented an oral updated on the Commission’s Estates Strategy which was due to be presented to the Executive Board in December and the Commission in January. His update covered the following key aspects which would be included in the strategy:

-       the impact of the pandemic on flexible working and how the estate was used and the on-going uncertainty with working from home restrictions still in place;

-       review of the lease arrangements and maintenance plans (including window replacement at Ty Hywel);

-       review of the North Wales office and consideration of other regional presence;

-       wider public/university sector opportunities for flexible use of office space;

-       the Welsh Government’s accommodation strategy and presence in Cardiff Bay;

-       the possible expansion of the Senedd, with more Members; and

-       considering use of the Pierhead and how to make better use of such an iconic building.

18.2    Dave agreed to share the Estates Strategy with the Committee after it had been considered by the Executive Board in December and before it was presented to the Commission in January.

18.3    In response to questions from the Committee around whether the strategy should take account of citizen engagement, Dave agreed that whilst this could be considered, its focus would have to be on the use of the estate. Manon added that, whilst practical benefits from the citizens perspective would form part of the considerations, it was important to provide fit for purpose, accessible buildings with all the relevant security measures.


Action: Share Estates Strategy with ARAC members after its consideration by the Executive Board.


Update from the Chair on presentation of the Committee's Annual Report to the Senedd Commission

Oral item


Oral item

19.1 This item was not covered at the meeting but the Chair had presented the Committee’s Annual Report to the Commission on 12 July.


Review the committee's terms of reference


ARAC (05-21) Paper 11 – current TOR 

20.1 The Committee noted the updated terms of reference.


Forward work programme


ARAC (05-21) Paper 12 – Forward Work Programme

21.1 The Committee noted the forward work programme and the Chair asked for the Estates Strategy and the Communication and Engagement Strategy to be shared out of committee.


Any Other Business

Oral item


Oral item

22.1    No other business was raised.

Gareth Watts
attended a private session with members of the Committee once formal proceedings had concluded. No minutes were taken.

Next meeting is scheduled for 14 February 2022.