Tag Archives: Audit Committee

COUNCILLORS WANT COMPANY SECRETS

Councillors, with bugger all to do since the Reverend Rees decided he didn’t want them scrutinising his work in detail any more, are finally ASKING QUESTIONS about the council’s two companies – Bristol Energy and Bristol Waste.

Councillors from all parties have been querying whether, in legal terms, Bristol Waste – a so-called ‘TECKAL COMPANY’ that can be selected to deliver council services without going through a procurement process – should be treated in the same way as a Council directorate for audit purposes. In other words, should there be FULL PUBLIC ACCESS to the company’s income and expenditure accounts like any other council department?

The Reverend and his panicky bosses have, so far, responded by trying to SHUT COUNCILLORS UP. They claim that a secret “independent review” of the companies has required Bristol Waste to establish its own audit committee while Bristol Energy had already established an audit committee. This is enough oversight argue the Reverend’s gophers.

Councillors, however, concerned at mounting LOSSES and excessive SECRECY at the companies, are reputed to be less than happy with the Reverend’s response and his insistence on constant secrecy for his failing companies. Especially as, at present, only ONE COUNCILLOR, the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, is permitted to attend Shareholder Group meetings and only as an observer.

Shareholder Group meetings are where the finances and management of these companies are discussed. But, “due to the commercial sensitivity of the matters discussed”, the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board is then BANNED from SHARING any information with other councillors.

Many councillors, permanently out-of-the-loop and concerned at the LOSSES and the general CONDUCT of companies they’re responsible for, are now saying that it’s “too limiting to maintain a situation whereby only one non-executive Council member is given access to information.”

How much longer can the Reverend keep his “commercially confidential” company bandwagon on the road? It increasingly looks like pressure is mounting from both the public and councillors for exactly the kind of TRANSPARENCY the Reverend promised us during his election campaign.

Watch this space.

BOSSES’ DATA FLOP

The Reverend Rees continues to a run a Rolls Royce bureaucracy. If the Rolls Royce in question is a BURNED OUT WRECK on the hard shoulder of the M32 currently acting as the temporary home for a family of small rodents.

On the 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will replace the Data Protection Act, supposedly to better protect our PRIVACY and PERSONAL INFORMATION from rampant corporate crooks and mendacious public sector bureaucrats. The changes have been in the pipeline for years and organisations across the country have been working flat out to make sure they comply with the new regulations and protect OUR RIGHTS.

Not, however, at Bristol City Council. Despite an endless procession of expert managers on six figure salaries coming through the revolving door over last few years, none of them has BOTHERED to prepare for the launch of the GDPR in May. Although the council openly admits, “GDPR will have a fundamental effect on all Bristol City Council processes and systems that hold personal data and will require significant change to working practices across all Directorates.”

Instead, the council – with four months to go – ADMITS that there’s NO formal project plan in place to implement GDPR across the Council; that NO governance arrangements for GDPR exist; that NO resources have been allocated to deliver GDPR and NO statutory Data Protection Officer, as required by the legislation, has been appointed. Nor does anyone seem to know where this new post might fit in the staff structure.

Council bosses promised councillors that they would URGENTLY report back to them about the GDPR through the Audit Committee at the end of January. But, alas, that particular item fell off the meeting agenda with NO explanation. Wonder why?

Good to see our privacy, personal data and rights are being so well looked after by the Reverend Rees and his expensive bosses isn’t it?

CENSORSHIP WATCH: THE BRISTOL CABLE

 

In an unprecedented move, Bristol’s co-operatively owned indie newspaper, The Bristol Cable, has REMOVED an entirely accurate article from its website following COMPLAINTS from the Reverend Rees and his bent coterie of very shy high-earning council bosses.

The article, published YESTERDAY, drew attention to a the council’s Draft Statement of Accounts, originally highlighted by the Bristol News Facebook page last week, that the Reverend’s council was employing more people on salaries exceeding £50k a year than they were a year ago.

The Reverend failed to comment to the Cable yesterday but did tell a Full Council meeting last night that the salary figures in his Statement of Accounts were INACCURATE and MISLEADING because they included the redundancy payments received by departing bosses.

This seems UNLIKELY since the Rev’s statement doesn’t list the gross salaries and benefits of his highly paid managers but the general ‘Remuneration Band’ they fall within. A ‘Remuneration Band’ would not ordinarily include one-off redundancy payments.

And if it did, why aren’t the twenty-one high-earning bosses – who shared out £2.5MILLION between them in redundancy pay-offs last year – listed and named in the report as earning over £150k last year as the law requires?

Regardless of these facts, the Cable has pulled the article and replaced it with the following statement: ***PLEASE NOTE THIS ARTICLE IS SUBJECT TO A COMPLAINT AND UNDER REVIEW***

Why has this article been pulled? It’s based on figures published in June by the council that were signed off by their Audit Committee on 27 June. If the figures are wrong, it’s the council’s job to explain this and publicly correct them. There is absolutely NO PRECEDENT or GOOD REASON for The Cable to pull a whole article published in good faith quoting publicly available official figures. Especially when these figures are yet to be formally denied anywhere as inaccurate.

It’s also laughable that The Rev Rees has put out a call across the city for “ideas” to deal with his budget deficit. However, when an “idea” involving not paying his bosses such large sums of money for sod-all appears, he tries to ban it!

If Bristol City Council wishes to attempt to censor information that makes the mayor look like a powerless twerp, then that’s their affair. But why are the Bristol Cable making fools of themselves by being bullied into supporting the council in their efforts to censor the truth?

The Cable article, obtained from the web’s cache is published below:

331 employees are now paid an annual basic pay of between £50,000 and £124,000, compared to 216 people in the financial year of 2015/16.

At the same time as general public sector pay caps and cuts has battered the council, almost every band of executive salaries at the council has seen an increase in numbers in the past year. Of the 21 senior pay categories that changed over the year, 18 have seen increases in the number of staff receiving top salaries.

These figures include the £160,000 a year council chief executive Anna Klonowski. It also includes at least three other executives who have seen their pay packets swell over the year by around £7,000 each, taking them to well above £160,000 a year including pension contributions.

Under pressure for implementing drastic cuts, Mayor Marvin Rees, who was elected in May 2016 has challenged anti-cuts protesters to come up with solutions, rather than just criticise. Defending the council positions on cuts, Mr Rees has written: “If we do not make a saving in one area we have to make it in another area. The consequence of one person’s priority is the de-prioritisation of another person’s priority.”

Responding to this latest information, Tom Whittaker a spokesperson from Bristol People’s Assembly, a coalition of trade unions and activists, said: “Clearly there can be no justification for executive pay rises when services are being cut, when many of Bristol’s poorest residents are struggling to survive under the impact of austerity and when ordinary council workers are enduring a long pay freeze.”

Mayor Rees was asked what involvement he had in these decisions, and how it fitted with his priorities agenda. He did not respond to the request.

The figures come from the 2016/17 unaudited annual accounts published by the council, available here.

AUDIT’S IDLE HANDS STILL ON THE PAYROLL

Bristol City Council’s Audit Committee continues to impress. The committee, that’s supposed to oversee sound finance and good governance at our council, releases its annual report to councillors today for the year the Bundred Report into the council’s latest FINANCIAL SHAMBLES was published.

Among a host of serious management misconduct at Bristol City Council, Bundred’s report detailed how the Audit Committee had been thoroughly MISLED by its own Chief Internal Auditors and senior bosses about their ‘savings programme’ for 2013 – 16. Sometimes through the use of straightforward LIES to the committee and sometimes through the use of “summary reports’ that conveniently LEFT OUT any bad news or actual facts.

This resulted in councillors setting an UNLAWFUL BUDGET for 2015 – 16 that proposed the council spend £30million more than they were legally permitted. So there’s lots to tell councillors and the public in this annual report then?

Or maybe not? As the latest Labour Party mug flailing around totally out-of-his-depth as the Audit Committee Chair, Olly “Meadiocre’ Mead, has delivered a short five page report of remarkable blandness and few recommendations. Indeed, it’s such a load of shite it could only have been written for him by his BENT Internal Audit Service.

Summing up a year of revelations of outright financial CRIMINALITY from his senior staff and auditors and financial ARMAGEDDON for the rest of us, Mediaocre felt his committee needed to focus on just three problems: ‘Maintaining an apolitical/independent approach to meeting agendas and items thereon’; ‘providing robust challenge to determine the effectiveness of Council’s governance  framework’; ‘ensuring  focused meetings to maximise the Committee impact’.

If anyone can find the part of the Bundred Report criticising ‘politicised’ Audit Committee meetings and a lack of focus at their meetings – do let us know. Otherwise just assume this is a load of wind and irrelevant bollocks from a CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT Internal Audit Service trying to cover their tracks by, er, misleading councillors (all over again).

Nothing sums up the misleading nature of this report more than the fact that NOWHERE does it mention the pretty important news that the council has appointed a new private sector Interim Chief Internal Auditor – Jonathan Idle of JR Idle Audit Services Ltd – no doubt for the standard annual six figure wedge. The appointment of this new Chief Internal Auditor hasn’t been formally announced to councillors anywhere else either.

Naturally, in order to waste even more of our money, which the Reverend Rees insists is in short supply, they’ve also KEPT their job share pair of USELESS and CORRUPT existing Chief Internal Auditors Melanie “Joe” Henchy-McCarthy and Alison “Mullet” Mullis in post. Although they’re now rebranded as just ‘Head of Internal Audit’ while being paid the same money.

In other words, the council’s response to the TOTAL FAILURE of their Audit Committee, Internal Audit and Chief Internal Auditors is to spend over £100k a year more of our money on a private sector consultant to do the jobs of pair of useless failures – who should be SACKED – who are still raking in excessive salaries they don’t deserve.

Also, NOWHERE in Mediocre’s report, is it mentioned that the Audit Committee has, for the last five years, received report after report from McCarthy and Mullet assuring councillors that finance management and risk at the council has been a story of CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT.

Until – that is – the Bundred Report appeared last year. Now we’re told by Chief Exec Big Wedge, in a separate finance report to Cabinet in May, that “the required Internal Audit Plan is not deliverable within existing resources” because of the “scale of finance improvements required”. Why is this serious AUDIT FAILURE and five year tissue of OUTRIGHT LIES from Internal Auditors not mentioned by Mediocre?

It’s also worth noting that the two ‘independent’ members of the Audit Committee –  Brenda “Wise Monkey” McClennan and Ken “Fool” Guy – who mysteriously noticed NOTHING amiss as various financial scandals engulfed the council during their extended eight year tenures  – have finally been let go.

Although – as yet – no replacements have been secured. Perhaps because if a normal member of the public sat on this committee listening to the bollocks spouted by the unholy alliance of city council senior bosses and their PATSY AUDITORS they might start asking difficult questions?

What a shambles.

WE’RE CRAP CONFIRM AUDITORS

More exciting news on the Rev Rees’s efforts to support WHISTLEBLOWERS at Bristol City Council.

We learn that the Rev’s hapless pair of CHIEF INTERNAL AUDITORS have investigated the state of whistleblowing at Bristol City Council and have discovered – after all these years – that there’s “a lack of co-ordination, no central or comprehensive recording of whistleblowing reports and no governance or review of the process.”

Well, we could have told them that. Remember the whistleblowers who were unceremoniously REMOVED from the council’s Markets Service in 2012 while in the care of Internal Auditors so that middle-ranking council bosses could spend 18 months COVERING-UP a comprehensive rip-off of the public?

And who was responsible for these useless whistleblowing arrangements at Bristol City Council?  Please step forward, er,  Bristol City Council’s CHIEF INTERNAL AUDITORS Alison “Mullet” Mullis and Melanie “Joe” Henchy-McCarthy who have been regularly reporting absolute bullshit about whistleblowing matters to the council’s Audit Committee  for years.

Now – presumably to keep their ineffective whistleblowing merry-go-round spinning aimlessly – the Chief Internal Auditors have announced they’re developing a NEW whistleblowing process for themselves and they’ll present an annual review of their work to the Audit Committee (as they have, in theory, always done). Plus ca change?

What whistleblower in their right mind would trust this pair of dubious chief auditors reporting – yet again – to the same soft-headed council committee of the gullible?

AUDIT UPDATE: BUNDRED EXPOSES BENT CHIEF AUDITORS

We don’t like to say that we told you so, but … We told you so! That staggering pair of arseholes, Alison “Mullet” Mullis and Melanie “Joe” Henchy-McCarthy, Bristol City Council’s Chief Internal Auditors – who are supposed to protect our money at the council – have been EXPOSED as BENT and USELESS by the council’s ‘Bundred Report’ into its dodgy finance reporting.

According to independent investigator Steve “Sticky” Bundred, the pair of idiot auditors gave the basketcase ‘Single Change Programme’ – that was supposed to deliver £64 million worth of corporate savings to the council by March 2017 and didn’t  – a clean bill of health and a ‘GOOD‘ rating in July 2015. Although it was plainly apparent, even then, to anyone allowed to look that it wasn’t delivering the savings that it should.

While the two auditors researched their report in the summer of 2015, Sticky Bundred tells us that the man in charge of the savings, strategic director Max Wide “Boy”, had “developed SERIOUS DOUBTS about the achievability of the planned savings …   as [his] Directorate was clearly failing to deliver savings expected from investment in commercial property.”

Bundred also says, “These CONCERNS were apparently expressed by [Wide Boy] to the then City Director [Nicola “Lady Gaga” Yates] in a one to one meeting on 13 July 2015 and again in a presentation to an SLT (senior leadership team) awayday.”

Bundred further notes, “on 11 June 2015 the Service Director, HR [Richard Billingham] and the Service Director, Business Change and ICT  [Paul “Arrogant” Arrigoni] met with the then City Director [Gaga] and the Strategic Director, Business Change [Wide Boy] to express concerns that benefits from the Change Programme were “DRIFTING“.”

So how did these two audit experts and super-sleuths employed by us to protect our money miss these OBVIOUS signs of a big problem in a programme they were investigating and manage to rate it as ‘GOOD‘ to councillors on the Audit Committee instead? Who knows? Because the Reverend Rees, so far, can’t be arsed to find out and neither can his Audit Committee.

Our intrepid auditors then went on to do a further investigation, specifically into the financial benefits of the ‘Single Change Programme’ in August 2015. Their draft report was issued to Wide Boy and his Single Change managers in November 2015. This draft report correctly identified cost reductions through a high-profile redundancy scheme in 2014 had NOT BEEN ACHIEVED.

Sticky Bundred explains, “Auditors believed posts were being deleted that had been vacant for a long time so there was NO ACTUAL SAVING and when actual people were released they were often replaced by interims/contractors or casual staff. In consequence, the draft [auditors] report identified RED RISKS in several areas.”

However, by November 2015, says Sticky, the Chief Internal Auditors had allowed the bosses in charge of the underachieving ‘Single Change Programme’ [Wide Boy, Arrogant and the Change Services Manager] to REWRITE their report for them!

The honest pair of auditors then proceeded to tell councillors on the Audit Committee in January 2016 via a ‘summary’ of their full report  that the Single Change Programme was operating at an ‘ACCEPTABLE‘ level without a ‘Red Risk’ in sight! When in fact it was FAILING to the tune of £29 million as all the bosses and both Chief Internal Auditors knew perfectly well.

This is straightforward LYING to our elected representatives. Why the fuck are this pair of bent audit bosses still in post and not at the Job Centre or, even, in a police cell?

BUNDRED REPORT: PANIC AT THE TOP?

A sense of DISARRAY and PANIC at the top of Bristol City Council is emerging as public anger and a determined effort to rid ourselves of the THIRTY bosses who hid a £30m budget black hole from the Bristolian public and their councillors in 2016 grows by the day.

The latest tactic from Bristol City Council’s CRIMINAL gang of Strategic and Service Directors – who presented a set of bent accounts to the public just prior to thieving a 20 per cent pay rise for themselves on the basis of their ‘talent’ – is to IGNORE their correspondence and AVOID replying to Freedom of Information requests.

A recent Freedom of Information request asking that the council supply the minutes of their CHANGE BOARD – where the £30 million scam was cooked-up – has been deliberately delayed. Because, claim panicking bosses, of the “COMPLEXITY” of the request.

What a load of bollocks. Retrieving files from a computer system and supplying them to the public involves no complexity whatsoever. IT’S A SIMPLE TASK. How can a £3 million a year high talent management team not be able to complete this simple task in a month and, instead, resort to weeping about the complexity of it all?

No wonder they struggle with traffic management and house building if obtaining files off a computer is too difficult for them. They are beyond PATHETIC and useless LIARS to boot.

Meanwhile, why is Shahzia “Dim” Daya – the council’s legal boss and Monitoring Officer right at the centre of the corruption scandal – IGNORING the straightforward request published below? Why’s she so bothered about involving external auditors? What could possibly be her problem with that?

From: steven norman <>
Sent: 17 February 2017 12:04
To: shahzia.daya@bristol.gov.uk
Subject: RE: RIGGING OF 2016 LOCAL & MAYORAL ELECTION BY 30 OFFICERS

Ms Daya

Perhaps someone could confirm whether Bristol City Council will be formally requesting that their external auditors conduct a Public Interest Investigation into the following:

– the 30 senior officers/Change Board that withheld information from councillors and the S151 officer that resulted in a material misstatement in the 2015 – 16 accounts and material misstatements in the budget for 2016 – 17 agreed by Full Council in February 2016.

– The Chief Internal Auditors who, in April 2015, found the Change Programme governance arrangements to be ‘good’. A perverse conclusion entirely at odds with the Bundred Report.

– The Chief Internal Auditors over a further Internal Audit report produced in November 2015 and finally published in December 2015 – ‘Change Programme: Financial Benefits Realisation” – that reported ‘acceptable’ levels of control across all areas of the Change Programme after the report was altered by the following officers – Change Services Manager, Service Director, Business Change & ICT, and Strategic Director, Business Change.

– The Chief Internal Auditors presenting the December 2015 report above to the Audit Committee in summary form and with no indication it had been substantially rewritten by officers/managers running the failing Change Programme.

Only it appears to me that an attempt was being made to rig the election by 30 officers who knowingly withheld vital and important information from elected officials and the general public

Kindest Regards

Mr Stephen Norman

If Bristol City Council’s sleazy management scum are avoiding answering these simple questions to DELIBERATELY avoid bringing in the external auditors as they are legally required to do, then they need to quit now so some bosses can come in who are prepared to OBEY THE LAW.

AUDIT WATCH

Brain

Ironic Name Brain in action

Our dear old friends at the council’s in-house financial watchdog, the AUDIT COMMITTEE, managed to excel even themselves in the totally-fucking-useless-and-incompetent stakes at their meeting in March to look at Green Capital spending.

Long touted as the moment that Bristolians would get the answers to their questions about what happened to the £8M OF PUBLIC MONEY spent on a year long jolly for the city’s ultra-privileged and their mates, the meeting was ineptly chaired by Labour’s Mark “Ironic Name” Brain. A man who increasingly resembles some sort of special needs case rather than a senior local politician.

Under Ironic Name Brain’s careful stewardship, members of the public were invited to ask their Green Capital questions to THIN AIR while direct questions from councillors on how public money was spent by the Green Capital’s private company, Bristol 2015 Ltd, also went UNANSWERED. Because nobody from Green Capital bothered to turn up for the first hour and a half of the agenda item!

However,Bristol 2015 Ltd chief exec, Nicola “LADY GAGA” Yates did finally put in an appearance but only after Deputy Mayor Geoff “Cods” Gollop admitted to our feisty and fearless independent financial watchdogs that he had personally undermined their authority and had instructed Bristol 2015 Ltd NOT TO ATTEND the meeting that he was only an invited guest at!

This blatant SABOTAGE by the mayor’s office of an independent committee of councillors did result in a mild rebuke to Gollop from Ironic Name. Although the obvious action of halting the DERANGED, HALF-ARSED MEETING immediately and arranging a proper public bollocking for Gollop and a proper meeting to investigate Bristol 2015 Ltd appeared way beyond Ironic Name’s abilities. Instead he ploughed on. Overseeing a farce.

Gaga’s performance, once she turned up, was undoubtedly the STAR COMIC TURN. The £192k a year council chief deciding to insist that she was only attending as Chief Exec of Bristol 2015 Ltd and couldn’t possibly answer any questions about the council she’s in charge of. Instead she redirected questions about the council to a HAPLESS MINION.

Meanwhile any questions directed by councillors to Gaga about Bristol 2015 Ltd were BATTED AWAY. “I don’t hold the data in my head,” she waffled. Neither did she have any data on a piece of paper, because, she claimed, she didn’t know about the meeting in advance and had only decided to pop in after seeing the meeting being webcast!

This RIDICULOUS CHARADE, performed under their noses by their most highly paid boss, passed without comment from the half-wits on the Audit Committee. And, after around two hours of aimless fucking about, the committee blandly concluded that “LESSONS NEEDED TO BE LEARNED“. Although what lessons or how the council will learn them is anybody’s guess as they didn’t bother to say.

All this meeting really demonstrated is that the only bigger waste of time and money than Bristol’s Green Capital is Bristol City Council’s Audit Committee. What are these wankers for?

MARKET FARCES: ‘REASONABLE’ LOSSES?

MarketsElsewhere in the latest markets report we’re assured that the OLD BENT MANAGEMENT of the service has now been moved on in favour of a new, young all-singing, all dancing team.

So how are the new team getting on? Well, a careful read of the report reveals they have managed to collect just 73 PER CENT of their total income for the year so far. This means over a quarter of the service’s income is going uncollected.

We calculate this amounts to a figure not unadjacent to £100K A YEAR that new bosses have failed to bank on our behalf.

Meanwhile Internal Audit assure us – after three years of constant work – that, “Controls are operating at an ACCEPTABLE level and management can take REASONABLE assurance that MANY of the risks to the service are effectively managed.”

Hardly fills you with confidence does it? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

MARKET FARCES: A WRITE OFF?

MarketsOur endless trudge through the city council’s farcically bent MARKETS SERVICE continues into another year …

Back in December, the authority’s ineffectual Internal Audit service dished up their FIFTH report in THREE YEARS about the service for the benefit of their gormless councillor overseers on the Audit Committee.

This time around, as well as the usual bland assurance that everything was improving, we got a wholesale REWRITING OF HISTORY. “An audit review of Markets operations was undertaken in November 2012,” they bluster.

And “Control weaknesses were particularly associated with two factors – the dominance of CASH COLLECTIONS, and utilisation of a dedicated and separate Markets ACCOUNTING SYSTEM which did not interface with the main finance system,” they blow.

An interesting theory … although unfortunately it’s total NONSENSE! Because the briefest glance at their audit opinion in 2012 says no such thing. It actually says that “a lack of urgency and willingness from MARKETS STAFF to quickly resolve all issues that were brought to their attention” was the problem.

Along with management’s FAILURE TO EXHIBIT OWNERSHIP of errors that contributed to the poor manual and electronic recording of financial and commercial transactions.”

In other words the problem was dodgy management and their criminally incompetent oversight of the service, especially its finances, not the “dominance of cash” or any technical issues with the accounting system.

The next paragraph of the latest report then blithely explains, “The Council’s debtors section is in the process of WRITING OFF HISTORICAL DEBT which is considered NON RECOVERABLE.”

In other words, money that simply disappeared without explanation due to the inexplicable actions of the OLD management is being quietly written off by the NEW management. Note also that the Internal Audit service have forgotten to tell us how much of our money is being written off.

In their last report they invented a so-say “DEBT“, apparently owed by no one, of £40k. Although the figure written into the council’s accounts in 2012 as “UNCOLLECTED LICENCE FEES” when they did their original investigation was as much as £165k.

So how much of our money have these clowns inexplicably lost and secretly written off? And why are they being so coy about it?