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News and Comment October 2021

Index: 2019202020212022

4 October (Part 2) - Wrapping up Audit

The Auditor made a very brief statement on the Pension Account last week. It is barely audible but it was not especially remarkable despite swallowing up enormous amounts of money. There was a £3·7 million understatement on an obscure investment but no Councillor had a question on anything. It had, to be fair, already gone before the Pensions Committee.

A few highlights from the remaining sections of the meeting were…

• A benefit fraudster had been successfully prosecuted and should eventually compensate the Council to the tune of nearly £80,000.
• There had been no Blue Badge prosecutions in the past year. The Council relies on snitches and there had been none. Covid had prevented street level investigations.
• Councillor Stefano Borella presumably conscious of the fact that he was at the General Purposes and Audit Committee and not just Audit asked if the Council would consider buying electrically powered dustcarts as the existing vehicle fleet reached the end of its life. Naturally enough he did not get an answer to his question. He had others. (Cabinet Member Leaf attempted to shift the climate change reference to tree planting and complained that the Labour Leader appeared not to be aware of it.)
• Was the Council prepared for a cyber attack on its facilities? He did not want Bexley to become another Hackney or Redcar. The question was referred to the Head of IT but the issue was said to be “high profile”.
• He understood that Heritage Assets had been audited. Where was the report and where were these assets? He whistled for an answer.
• The Council’s financial interests in the shopping centres were under threat from changing habits and Councillor Borella was concerned about it. He was told that “the team is well on top of that.”

Once again it was left to Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) to deliver a well aimed kick.

Internal Audit recommendations should be implemented come what may and should be checked after an interval of six months. “But you say that sometimes they are not implemented. Why? Are we just wasting Council money by re-auditing situations again? How many [internal audit recommendations] are not implemented and why? For example, how many in the last year have not been implemented?”

He was told that there are no re-audits and there is an attempt to follow up recommendations that are considered high risk. There have been some partial implementations. Service Departments “self-assess”.

It was the sort of answer that might satisfy a lesser Councillor but maybe not Councillor Andy Dourmoush. Will he be back?

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) took issue with the practice of dismissing people who were on long term sick but he was assured that such people were always and without exception pleased to take their money and go.


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