Membership

The Audit Panel is independent of the Committee of Management and consists of representatives of the Consortium and invited professional bodies.

The current members are as follows:

Mr Paddy Jackman (Chair)
Ms Wendy Evans (Cambridge Colleges)
Vacancy (NUS)
Ms Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed (Unipol)

The Panel is serviced by the National Codes Administrator (NCA) and meets four times a year.

Members of a verification team are invited to attend meetings of the Audit Panel when reports they have produced from visits are due to be discussed. The current members of the team is as follows:

Ms Elizabeth Beattie
Ms Mary Bright
Mr Derek Goss
Mr Philip Moxon
Mr Richard Lord
Mr Jakub Pietruszewski
Mr David Robertson
Mr Nick Stanton
Mr William Wilson

Terms of reference

The Audit Panel has operational responsibility for deciding on:

  • the operation of the self assessment and verification system as determined by the Consortium
  • the evaluation of returns made within the self assessment process
  • whether to process an application for membership (within the framework set by the CoM)
  • evaluating reports made to them by the NCA
  • the organisation of verification visits, their timetable, reporting and follow-up
  • undertaking arrangements for improvement actions according to procedures laid down by the Consortium
  • appropriate action to take against those organisations failing to address any issue raised by the Panel within the required timescale
  • immediate suspension from a Code pending further consideration by either the CoM or the Tribunal
  • whether to refer a member to a Tribunal hearing for non-compliance together with any recommendation for warnings, suspensions or expulsion from the Codes.

The Audit Panel shall:

  • receive a report at each meeting from the NCA on the outcomes from the self assessment and verification processes
  • ensure that verification takes place within 30 days of the NCA’s receipt of the completed self assessment questionnaire
  • ensure that each member of a Code will be subject to a verification visit once every three years, or more frequently, if decided
  • ensure that a verification report is completed and kept on file for six years for each verification visit undertaken and that the report shall be in the format laid down by the Consortium
  • issue minutes recording each meeting and present a report of each meeting to the next appropriate Committee of Management.

The Audit Panel shall be provided, by the NCA, with a summary of all complaints made under the Codes for their consideration.

Any significant dispute arising from the self assessment and verification process, which cannot be resolved through discussion, will be referred to the Complaints Tribunal for resolution.

Audit Panel Standing Orders

The self assessment and verification process

Self assessment involves applicants/existing members completing a standard questionnaire (SAQ) in which they are asked to assess themselves against a range of criteria.

Verification involves an independent professional verifier visiting a sample of the applicant’s/existing member’s portfolio and cross-checking claims made in the SAQ. Specifically, the verifier shall:

  • inspect and assess aspects of the physical fabric of the building and the management routines
  • interview existing tenants in order to form a view on the level of customer satisfaction.

Specified documentation within the Codes shall be provided to the verifier two weeks in advance of the visit.

The verification report

A verification report is issued after each visit.

In completing a verification report a verifier must reach a clear decision, recording conclusions on:

  • how an applicant/existing member’s self assessment compares with the verifier’s conclusions
  • any work that must be undertaken to ensure compliance with the relevant Code and the timescale within which that work must be undertaken
  • whether a re-inspection is required and when this will take place

The NCA sends providers a draft copy of their verification report in order to give them an opportunity to correct errors before the report is formally issued. Providers are required to acknowledge receipt of the draft in writing within 14 days. If they fail to do so, the NCA shall send them a 14-day reminder, and if they fail to acknowledge within the additional time allowance, the NCA shall refer the matter to the Tribunal with a recommended course of action.

If any problems are identified by the report, these will remain confidential for 30 days whilst the provider concerned has an opportunity to rectify these or dispute the report.

If there is a dispute over the wording of a verification report, which cannot be resolved between a provider and the verifier (operating in consultation with the Audit Panel), the NCA shall refer the matter to the Chair of the Complaints Tribunal for a decision. Records of the Tribunal process and its outcome are posted on the website and placed in the public domain.

The Consortium determines the format of the verification report.

The NCA holds all completed verification reports on file for six years.

Action Points

The verification report format includes a requirement for the logging of any Action Points. Where an Action Point is recorded, the verifier includes a timescale within which the provider must complete the action specified. The verifier follows up all Action Points they have formally identified and reports the outcomes to the Audit Panel.

For new members, where the verifier has stipulated a number of conditions, such as Action Points, the verifier shall have discretion to make a recommendation to award membership notwithstanding the works not yet having been undertaken.

Recommendations Made by Verifiers

The NCA refers verifiers’ recommendations on membership to the Audit Panel for confirmation. If the Audit Panel concludes that membership should not be awarded, the matter shall be referred to the Tribunal, which has sole authority to make decisions on refusal of membership. Where the Tribunal determines to suspend or not to award membership, the NCA shall, on its behalf, inform relevant local housing authorities and educational establishments.

Specifically, where a verification visit reveals issues with the physical conditions of a building, especially where the verifier believes these might constitute a statutory breach, a referral shall be made to the relevant local housing Authority.

In the case of existing members, if a serious issue of non compliance arises, the Audit Panel may temporarily suspend membership (up to a maximum of 12 weeks) whilst the issue is examined further.

The Tribunal will always be involved in making a recommendation about the removal or longer term suspension from the relevant Code. In considering such matters the Tribunal shall hear from all interested parties.

In the event of significant non compliance by a new applicant, membership is normally not given until the relevant standard has been met.

Failure to complete any action points set by a verifier following a visit is also reported to the Audit Panel.

Verifiers [via the NCA] refer to the Audit Panel providers which have failed to complete Action Points within the deadlines set. The Audit Panel then decides on the appropriate action which may include:

  • warning(s) – to be reported to the CoM
  • immediate suspension prior to consideration by the Tribunal
  • a referral to the Tribunal
  • recommendation of expulsion from membership to the Tribunal

Notification of warnings and immediate suspension are placed in the public domain and posted on the website.

The Chair of the Audit Panel can may take Chair's action on any of these matters between meetings following consultation with colleagues about any serious decision. When necessary or urgent, the Chair can, however, take a decision on immediate suspension without such consultation, but will report this fact to other members of the Audit Panel as soon as possible thereafter.

Reporting of New Members

The NCA reports all new members to the Audit Panel and the Committee of Management at the earliest opportunity.

Developments Which Change Operational Management

Where developments change operational management, they are re-verified (even where the new manager is an existing member) before being added to the list of buildings covered by the relevant Code.

Continuing Verification

After being granted membership initially, a member has a further building verified every three years. Where a member has only one development or a small portfolio, re-verification of the same property may become necessary as part of the continuing verification process. However, for larger suppliers, buildings shall be selected from their portfolio for inspection within each three-year period of membership to ensure that a cross-section of their properties (including size, location and type) is verified. The NCA shall submit proposals to the Audit Panel for approval of which developments to verify and when.

Verification Visits Triggered by Complaints/Concerns

Complaints or concerns received by the NCA can trigger additional verification visits. The Audit Panel considers any request from a Consortium member for additional verification.

Status of the Verification Process

For the avoidance of doubt, the verification process does not directly test compliance with any statutory or contractual obligations and in no way absolves the providing organisation from their responsibilities to comply with such requirements.