The Board's responsibilities
The Board has overall responsibility for the Group's system of internal control and for reviewing its effectiveness. The Board maintains full control and direction over appropriate strategic, financial, operational and compliance issues and has put in place an organisational structure with formally defined lines of responsibility, delegated authorities and clear operating processes. The systems that the Board has established are designed to safeguard both the shareholders' investment and the assets of the Group, and are described below.
Key elements of the control framework
Financial reporting process - management and specialists within the Finance Department are responsible for ensuring the appropriate maintenance of financial records and processes to ensure that all information is relevant, reliable and in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations, and distributed both internally and externally in a timely manner. A review of the consolidation and financial statements is completed by management to ensure that the financial position and results of the Group are appropriately reflected. All financial information published by the Group is subject to the approval of the Audit Committee.
Strategic and financial planning - an annual budgeting and strategic planning process has been established whereby each division and constituent operating company assesses its competitive position and goals, taking account of the strategic risks faced. This strategy is translated into a financial plan with clear milestones and performance indicators.
Performance management - the performance of each division and operating company against its plan is closely monitored by a formal monthly reporting process and by the attendance of the relevant Executive Directors at monthly divisional executive meetings.
Annual fitness check process - internal audit undertake an annual review at each operating company to assess the integrity of the balance sheet and to check the effective operation of key financial reporting and information systems controls. The results of the reviews are presented to both divisional and Group finance with any required actions agreed with the relevant divisional Finance Director.
Capital investment - a clear process is in place for the approval of capital expenditure, which includes detailed appraisal of the benefits of the proposed investment and any associated key risks. Material capital expenditure requires Board approval.
Health and safety - health and safety standards and benchmarks have been established in all our businesses and the performance of operating companies in meeting these standards is closely monitored.
Risk management reporting process - each division and operating company evaluates its internal control environment and key risks, and the results are reviewed at management level and passed to the Audit Committee before being presented to the Board. This process is reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the validity and relevance of the key risks included in reports. The review covers strategic, financial, compliance and risk management controls. These procedures are mandated and designed to manage the risk in order to ensure that the operations achieve their business objectives.
Internal audit - the internal control system is independently monitored and supported by a Group internal audit function. The internal audit function reports to management and the Audit Committee on the Group's financial and operational controls, and monitors and reviews the extent to which its recommendations have been implemented.
Board-level reporting on internal control - during the year the Audit Committee reviews regular reports from the internal audit function, the external auditors and executive management on matters relating to internal control, financial reporting and risk management. The Audit Committee provides the Board with an independent assessment of the Group's financial position, accounting affairs and control systems. In addition, the Board receives regular reports on how specific risks that are assessed as material to the Group are being managed.
Review of internal control effectiveness
The system of internal control and risk management, described above, has been in place for the year under review and up to the date of approval of this Annual Report and Accounts. Such a system is designed to manage, rather than to eliminate, the risks inherent in achieving the Group's business objectives, and can therefore provide only reasonable and not absolute assurance against material misstatement or loss. The effectiveness of this system has been regularly reviewed by the Directors in line with the Guidance on Audit Committees published by the Financial Reporting Council in 2010. Where significant control failings or weaknesses have been identified, appropriate corrective action has been taken.