Saturday 8 July 2017

Audit woes

The Council's Audit Committee meets next week (not webcast, and recordings are banned) and on the agenda, alongside the draft Statement of Accounts which I mentioned last week, are a couple of worrying internal audit reports.

As is usual, the details are sparse and the language sanitised, and it will be up to the Committee to ensure they are fully briefed rather than simply accept bland assurances from the attending officers.

There are two reports, concerning the failure to follow the Council's Procurement and Contract Procedural Rules .

With a total annual budget of £200m for the supply of goods and services, the first report highlights failure to comply with Contract Procurement Rules. A specimen analysis of several contracts was undertaken and concluded that, in some instances;

  • Contracts or frameworks are not in place;
  • Where there are frameworks they are not always utilised correctly;
  • Contractors have not always been appointed in accordance with the framework call off policy,
  • Quotations were not always obtained or not always retained.

In addition, the cumulative level of spend across the departments is not known and could be failing to comply with EU tendering thresholds, and also failing to provide value for money.

The second report is similar. The total Capital Maintenance budget for the council is £3.25m per annum and again there are failures and a lack of clarity over how contracts are awarded, particularly under the Responsive Minor Works and Disabled Adaptions Contractors Framework.

A framework enables a contract to be awarded ('call-off) within the list of providers, either directly or through a mini-tendering exercise. According to the report, there appears to be little or no record of how the jobs were awarded, and neither was there any record of post-completion monitoring (ie was the work done, and was it done properly). The report states that "Given the significant amount of money spent on Capital Maintenance schemes it is imperative that the Authority takes responsibility for ensuring works are completed to the agreed specification. " Yes indeed.

This is not the first time there have been problems with proper compliance with the awarding of contracts and procurement of services. Similar issues were identified back in March 2014 and more recently with the Supporting People Grants and, most notoriously, with Pembrey Country Park. Worryingly, a £250m tender has just been published for 'partners' to develop the Delta Lakes luxury health spa 'Wellness Village', let's hope that process is correct, transparent and above board...

Given that only a sample of contracts were analysed, one can only guess what the true picture might be across the Authority. Incidentally, there is a third report on the agenda dealing with Coedcae Area Sports Centre, where management issues remain 'ongoing' and no guarantee can be given that all income is accounted for. As with the first two reports, no further details are provided.

So, Members of the Audit Committee, it's over to you.


Myfanwy said...

And unless there's anyone with any cojones on the committee, that's as far as it will go. We need a Pembrokeshire-type
Jacob Williams or Mike Stoddart - councillors who are not afraid to ask questions and to dig deep to get the truth and then create merry hell until it gets sorted. Perhaps one of our new councillors will step up to the plate?

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine there are too many as ruthless and vindictive as this CEO Mark James. He puts fear into councillors of that there is no doubt, but don't you just wonder why and how. Everyone buckles under him.

If his case against Jacqui is a private one the Welsh Government should intervene and question him on the monies he's costing the taxpayer, as they cannot use the old chestnut they cannot intervene in 'council business' as this isnt council business.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with your comments regarding framework projects/work - been an issue for a number of years, but unable to challenge, even officers on the ground floor have issues with them but will not speak up due to needing a job and will not challenge management. We are priced out of Carmarthenshire, now only work in the private sector as we cannot afford to do work for Carmarthenshire as it would cost us to do a proper job for them, no point as we have to pay our workforce, cannot afford to pay for labour and material as well as pay CCC for work. If you speak to the ground floor staff the quality of the work by some framework projects is horrendous but framework is framework, quality does not come into it.