Saturday, November 28, 2009

2007/08 Auditors Report

The External Auditors Annual Report 2007/08 is a damning report by Grant Thornton on the financial problems of this Town Council going back to the 1980's. The original SNTC Annual Report should have been presented to Town Council for approval by 30th June 2008 (legal deadline). It wasn't until October 2008 the Annual Report was finally presented.

So what did the Auditors have to say?

Under Value for Money section the Town Council failed to meet adequate 10 of the 11 criteria. The only one it achieved was "Communication with service users and other stakeholders and partners". What this Town Council failed at was:

Setting, reviewing and implementing strategic and operational objectives.
Management of performance against strategic objectives.
Monitoring the quality of published performance information.
Maintaining a sound system of internal control.
Managing significant business risks objectives.
Managing and improving value for money.
Ensuring spending matches available resources
Managing Performance against budgets.
Managing the asset base.
Promoting and ensuring probity and propriety in the conduct of business.  

Some other quotes:

"There were no written procedures in place for the accounting system,..."
"There is no evidence that the Council has effective procurement policies in place."
"Because of the absence of comprehensive financial and non-financial reporting during the year it is not possible to confirm that areas of high spending were identified and subject to review and scrutiny."
"There was inadequate monitoring of spend against the budget during the year."
"The Council does not have a written policy on the level of reserves and balances,....."

Other concerning parts.

The Auditors were concerned that the position of Town Clerk has yet to be replaced. This was a decision by the Liberal Democrat leadership (Cllrs Giles and Thorpe) to save a bit of money to get them through the budget process as they, obviously, didn't know what the financial position was!

There is evidence of non-compliance with the Council's Standing Financial Instructions, which require the Town Clerk to authorise all debt write-offs. However, the Town Clerk was never requested to authorise debt write-offs in practice.

The cost of the Audit rose from £10,000 to £20,000. (This extra £10k was taken in the 2008/09 accounts.)

Members were not able to establish whether Council objectives were being delivered or that Value for Money was being achieved in the use of resources.

Managers budgets weren't devolved to them.

I can only assume that instead of being open and honest our political leaders hid the problem and went on with the massive undertaking (in SNTC terms) that is the Eatons Community Centre. I quote from Page 14 section 4.6. of the report. "The outturn position for 2007/08 was not known until the accounts were fundamentally complete for approval by members in October 2008. This had implications for managing the 2008/09 budget and a freeze was placed on spending for part of the year which could have had a significant impact on the Council's activities and achievement of its priorities. "

In effect the ECC was held up during the summer of 2008 because they didn't know what the financial situation of the Council was!

In conclusion, I would state this audit report basically says the Councillors who were in charge were not doing their jobs. The Senior Officers were not doing theirs either. Information was kept back and this had implications for the 2008/09 budget and the 2009/10 budget.

Political resignations because of this report = 0

So what about the "missing loan" that headlined in the local papers. Well, the Town Council was paying the loan back and in each budget this was accounted for. It was just the amount was left off the balance sheet. Inclusion of this loan didn't effect the Council Tax. Whilst highly embarrassing it didn't warrant the attention it received. Indeed, Cllr Derek Giles was able to use the "missing loan" to smother all the faults the report exposed under his leadership of the Town Council.

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