Cornwall Council accused of ‘total ignorance’ by Audit Committee member in run up to crucial meeting

Cornwall Council has been accused of ‘total ignorance’ by an Audit Committee member in run up to April’s meeting of the Audit Committee next week.

At Cornwall Council’s Audit Committee in January there were loud ructions about a report that indicated that Direct Payments within the Adult Care system were not being properly monitored despite this same point being raised three years previously and about the fact that the Director in charge had not been made aware of the problem when she joined the Council in April 2018.

A report has now been produced ahead of next week’s Audit Committee meeting which is long on words and proposed actions but totally silent on how something that was highlighted as a problem three years ago has seemingly not been addressed.

Direct Payments do not seem to be the only problem the Council has.  A report to the Audit Committee released late yesterday has again raised concerns about some areas where there has been a lack of progress by management that were previously reported as requiring action. These areas include IT Disaster Recovery Procedures and the Council’s Capital Spending Programme where the report comments on both under-spending because of stalled projects, overspends and the fact that the governance of the Capital Spending programme is delegated to various internal Boards where attendance of highly paid officers is poor.

On one new area known as the Working Differently Programme the Internal Audit report states that,

“Governance arrangements were not fit for purpose and there was a lack of clarity on the role of the WDP board”

Commenting, Cornwall Councillor for Truro Trehaverne and Audit Committee Member David Harris said:

“I was very angry when I first became aware of this issue shortly after my election, and have been following it closely ever since.”

”Things go from bad to worse. We have a report sneaked out at 3.00pm on the Thursday before long Easter Weekend, and two days after the rest of the papers for next week’s meeting in the hope that it will not get picked up on. Fat chance of that!”

“Apart from the complete mess in the operation of the Direct Payments system where I wonder if we will ever know how much taxpayer money has been thrown away, one area this report should have covered was why there was no action taken by management after a 2016 report on the same issue.

“The report is totally silent on this so I have two simple questions:”

“Where was this matter reviewed? Where does responsibility stop?”

“Of course, it’s normally at the top. I suggested that the Chief Executive might attend the last Audit Meeting to explain this but she did not. I do hope that she is able to come to our next meeting and tell us how reports from Internal Audit are apparently ignored and senior officers not briefed when joining the Council.”

“In any reasonable business points raised by Internal Audit would remain on Board agendas until they were dealt with. With this in mind it would be good to get a proper explanation of what the processes are within Cornwall Council, both from the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council who I assume was aware of some of these issues even though, in relation to Direct Payments, the Cabinet Member professed total ignorance of the matter.”

“Total ignorance seems to sum this matter up.”

“Rest assured, I will not let this matter drop and myself and the rest of the Conservative Group on Cornwall Council will continue closely to scrutinise the way in which the council is run and hold the officers and administration to account  where needed.”