The Audit Committee has overall responsibility for the monitoring of internal controls, approving accounting policies and agreeing the treatment of significant accounting issues.
One of the key priorities of the Audit Committee is the safeguarding of the Group’s assets, both physical, such as inventory and intangible, such as software and intellectual property. This is achieved through implementation of policies and procedures and regular checks to ensure these are in operation.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, implementation of daily reporting of key business metrics and staff attendances and sickness was overseen by the Audit Committee with a particular emphasis on cash control and forecasting. This procedure has become part of the normal reporting requirements throughout the Group.
The consideration and documentation of risks and opportunities is undertaken on an annual basis as part of the budgeting process which the full Board take part in. These matters are then monitored and adapted as required throughout the year by the means of regular meetings and conference calls between the Board and the divisional management teams. The annual insurance renewal provides a further opportunity to assess risks and provide cover in areas where risk mitigation is not possible, or levels of risk are significant.
The Board reviews monthly financial performance against budgets and forecasts and monitors bank facilities and other treasury functions with any policy changes approved by the Board.
The Audit Committee receives feedback from the external auditors on areas of risk and accounting procedures which are used in adapting internal control processes as required.
The Committee reviews any proposed due diligence of acquisition targets and the selection of the professional firm carrying out the work.
The Committee is responsible for making recommendation to the Board on the appointment of the external auditor and for non-audit services such as taxation and acquisition due diligence.
The Chair of the Committee meets with the external audit partner to discuss independence before the commencement of the current year’s audit.
The Board of Directors has identified the main categories of business risk in relation to the implementation of the Group’s strategic aims and objectives, and has considered reasonable steps to prevent, mitigate or manage these risks.
Macro-economic – the Group’s businesses are active in markets which can be cyclical in nature as the overall level of market demand is dependent upon capital investment intentions. Economic or financial market conditions determine global demand and could adversely affect our customers, distributors, operations, suppliers, and other parties with whom we transact. The Directors seek to ensure that overall risk is mitigated by avoiding excessive concentration of exposure to any given industry segment or to any individual customer. Market conditions, lead indicators and industry forecasts are monitored for any early warning signs of changes in overall market demand, and measures to exploit opportunities or manage elevated risks are taken as appropriate. Key business risks are set out in the strategic review.
Production and supply chain – the continuity of the Group’s business activities is dependent upon the cost-effective supply of products for sale from our own facilities, and those of our key vendors. Supply can be disrupted by a variety of factors including raw material shortages, labour disputes and unplanned machine down time. Delays in the shipment of goods can affect lead times and create some disruption.
Laws and regulations – Group businesses may unknowingly fail to comply with all relevant laws and regulations in the countries in which they operate and contract business. There is a risk of breach of legal, safety, environmental or ethical standards which can be more difficult to identify, comprehend, or monitor in certain territories than others. The Directors believe that they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that operations are conducted to high ethical, environmental and health and safety standards. Controls are in place to keep regulatory and other requirements under careful review, and scrutinise any identified instances of elevated risk.
Information Technology (“IT”) – Group IT systems and the information they contain are subject to security risks including the unexpected loss of continuity from virus or other issues, and the deliberate breach of security controls for commercial gain or mischief. Any such occurrences could have a significant detrimental effect on the Group’s business activities. These risks are mitigated by the utilisation of physical and embedded security systems, regular back-ups and comprehensive disaster recovery plans.
The Group’s main exposure to market risk arises from increases in input costs in so far as it is unable to pass them on to customers through price increases.. The Group seeks to mitigate increases in input costs through a combination of continuous improvement activities to minimise increases in input costs and passing cost increases on to customers, where this is commercially viable.
The Group is also aware of market risk in relation to the dependence upon key vendors in its supply chain. This risk could manifest in the event of a commercial or natural event leading to reduced or curtailed supply. The Group seeks to mitigate these risks by maintaining transparent and constructive relationships with key vendors, sharing long term plans and forecasts, and encouraging effective disaster recovery planning. Alternative sources of supply with different vendors and in different geographic regions have also been put in place.
Other risks and uncertainties
The remaining main risks faced by the Group are to its reputation as a consequence of a significant failure to comply with accepted standards of ethical and environmental behaviour.
The Directors have taken steps to ensure that all of the Group’s operations are conducted to the highest ethical and environmental standards. Regulatory requirements are kept under review, and key suppliers are vetted in order to minimise the risk of the Group being associated with a company that commits a significant breach of applicable regulations.