Governance Assurance Arrangements: Ensuring Accountability

14 April 2022



The term ‘assurance’ has firmly entered the lexicon of corporate governance and it is here to stay. Effective and fit-for-purpose assurance arrangements require key foundation building blocks such as clarity of roles and responsibilities, clear and tangible performance and control expectations, good quality information and data, quality reporting, and accountability systems to be in place and operating. Matters of culture and tone also play an important role.

Assurance is generally sought by a ‘higher authority’ such as: to a line manager from a team member, to a senior management team from a business unit director, to a Board or Committee from an Executive or CEO, and even to a parent department or funder from an organisation.  Assurance relationships can also be vertical and horizontal, formally documented or informally understood. Assurances can also be sought or tested by third party organisations, such as the Office of the C&AG, the Information Commissioner’s Office, Revenue or the Data Protection Commission. Assurances may also be sought from ‘partner’ organisations, such as a delivery partner organisation or a shared service provider.

Good quality assurance arrangements support the effective governance of modern organisations, both from the perspective of effective delivery of strategies, and controls including the annual attestation of the system of internal controls. Good quality assurance arrangements require the right people doing the right things, with those in key positions asking the right questions and seeking the right information.

This event will explore this ever important area with the help of three experienced practitioners, considering questions such as:

Our guest speakers for the event are:


Colette Drinan

Colette is the Secretary and Director of Audit in the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.  She directs a portfolio of audits which includes most central government departments and offices. As Secretary, she is also the Accounting Officer for the Office. 

Colette has been involved in a number of international organisations including the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI).  She is currently a member of the Evaluation and Audit Assurance Committee of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Before joining the Office, Colette managed a number of regulatory divisions in the Central Bank, which she joined after qualifying as an accountant in PwC.  She is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Antony Clark

Antony was appointed Audit Scotland’s Interim Director of Performance Audit and Best Value and Controller of Audit in March 2021 for up to 18 months, having joined Audit Scotland in 2003. As Controller of Audit, he also has statutory responsibility for reporting to the Accounts Commission on matters of public interest in all local authorities in Scotland.

Prior to joining Audit Scotland, Antony worked for the Nursing and Midwifery Council in London from the mid 1980s until joining North Tyneside Council in 1991 as a community care planner.  He joined the Audit Commission in the mid-1990s where he spent six years managing health and local government audits across the North of England.

After a short period back in local government, working on political modernisation (elected mayors and cabinet constitutions), he joined Audit Scotland.  

Antony is passionate about accountability, leadership and improving public services. His responsibilities including overseeing national performance audits across public services for the Auditor General and Accounts Commission; reporting to the Accounts Commission on best value audits in councils; working with scrutiny partners to ensure that audit and inspection activity in local government is joined up, proportionate and risk based; and responding to issues of concern about public bodies that are raised by members of the public and their elected representatives.

Dr Geraldine Smith

Geraldine was until 31 March this year National Director of Internal Audit with the HSE where she was responsible for the Internal Audit service for the HSE and the Internal Audit service for Tusla (the Child & Family Agency). She was also a member of the HSE’s Executive Management Team (EMT), the strategic leadership and decision-making structure for the HSE.  

Geraldine has been responsible for the conduct of a number of sensitive and high profile audit assignments of HSE publicly funded bodies which have come into the public domain, for example St John of God, the National Maternity Hospital, Console, Senior Management Remuneration Top-ups in Section 38 funded bodies (including the Central Remedial Clinic), SKILL, and Positive Action, a number of which have been discussed at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) at which she has appeared as a witness on several occasions to give evidence on these reports.

Geraldine is a qualified accountant and internal auditor with over 32 years senior internal and external audit and governance experience, with 22 years as National and Assistant National Director of Internal Audit with the HSE and 10 years as an external auditor with the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Geraldine is Chairperson of the Audit & Risk Committee of the OPW and an independent member of the Audit, Risk, Compliance and Finance Committee of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).