Sunday, 11 January 2015

Knowle relocation project: 'checks and balances': the SWAP ... an appeal to the public to send in "any information about possible errors in the Council’s facts and figures..."

The District Council promised to look at the relation project 'thoroughly' at all its committee stages:

Full council agreed that no final decision will be taken on relocation until there has been a thorough examination of the figures underpinning the project by the council's audit and governance committee, overview and scrutiny committee, internal audit and external auditors.

Councillors back EDDC relocation plans | The Exeter DailyCouncillors back EDDC relocation plans

One particular stage is the Audit & Governance Cttee, which works with the auditors 'South West Audit Partnership':
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: 'checks and balances': the SWAP

The Cttee met up last week:

The deputy chair had spoken at the last full council meeting:

Councillor Peter Bowden, Vice Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee advised (in the absence of the Committee Chairman) that the relocation of the Council offices was to be discussed at the Committee meeting on 8 January 2015. The issue was in respect of good governance and not political opinion. 


This determination was reflected in the meeting of the Audit Committee. 
Here is a report from an observer: 


January 8th, 2015

This point was made very firmly by Deputy Chair Cllr Bowden, at this afternoon’s Audit and Governance (A&G) Committee meeting at Knowle.

Councillors and the public will naturally bear this in mind when the two independent audits, called for by A&G today, arrive in quick succession. The Committee was assured by EDDC officer Simon Davey, that both reports would be available by mid- to late-February 2015, to give time for a thorough reading before the next A&G meeting in March. They are long overdue!

Individual councillors, and of course Save Our Sidmouth (SOS), have made repeated requests for independent audits over the past two years.Not until 17 December 2014, and long after the political decision to move had been approved by themselves, did the Full Council, prompted by Cllr Graham Troman, vote to ask for a thorough investigation of the figures behind the relocation project.

Today, partly in response to questions from Richard Eley of SOS, and Tony Green of|East Devon Alliance, it was formally requested through the Chair, Cllr Ken Potter, that the the reports must be in writing, and that most of the content should be in Part A…i.e. in the public domain.

Internal auditor, Andrew Ellins,of South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) acknowledged that until now his work had depended more “on reliance than in-depth delving ” into the actual figures given by the relocation team. “If the figures are not accurate, then I have been hoodwinked”, he said. He appealed to members of the public to send him any information about possible errors in the Council’s facts and figures, that they would like him to report on.

External auditors, Grant Thornton, also promised to take a rigorous look at the Council’s calculations including the energy savings claimed by Richard Cohen to justify the move from the Knowle . Richard Eley had already expressed his incredulity at the “maverick and pessimistic” predictions of the Deputy CEO.

Several councillors expressed their awareness of the massive public concern over relocation, and Chair, Cllr Ken Potter declared, “This committee is anxious to get to the detail”. The business plan for relocation, and the soundness of the assumptions driving it, might at long last be thoroughly examined. We shall see.

One thought on ““The principle interest in a report is its probity”.”

Sandra Semple says:
January 9, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Just one problem: how can we query the numbers if we don’t know the numbers?

I am also shocked at the auditor saying he didn’t do any “in-depth delving”. Surely that’s his job. Alarm bells ringing very loudly.

And have you noticed how quiet councillors have gone since they passed this “project with no numbers”. Perhaps they see their careers about to go down the plughole.

It’s like a builder saying to you: Yes, I can build your new house but don’t ask me how much it will cost till I finish it – now sign here.

“The principle interest in a report is its probity”. | East Devon Watch

Earlier last year, the EDA blog carried this critique:
Nuggets from Audit and Governance Committee agenda | East Devon Watch

There do indeed seem to be questions about process and objectivity at the District Council:


January 9th, 2015

Including how councillors can serve on its board and remain neutral and minutes of Board Meetings, though SWAP seem unable to understand quite how whatdotheyknow works:

SWAP are the internal auditors to EDDC and South Somerset councils and (see below) their EDDC auditor has said that he has not examined EDDC relocation figures “in depth”.

South West Audit Partnership: recent FOI requests | East Devon Watch

See also:
Futures Forum: District Council Leader's New Year message ... and the "problem with the neutrality and reliability of those Viewpoint surveys"

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