Tag Archives: Internal audit

LUVVIE TROUSERS CASH GIFT WHILE COUNCIL CAN’T FIND MILLIONS

Remuneration 2021

The revelation in Bristol City Council’s draft accounts that former housing director and architect of the ‘Caridon Death Star‘ for warehousing the homeless, Julian “Luvvie” Higson scarpered from Bristol in December with a £27k payment as “Compensation for Loss of Office”, despite apparently resigning has raised a few eyebrows.

Not least because a report has just appeared from the council’s Internal Audit team identifying serious problems in the council’s Affordable Housing Grant scheme. A scheme worth tens of millions and meant to support “Registered Housing Providers (RP) and community led housing organisations for affordable rented homes which are within Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rent limits.”

In other words this was a scheme to hand large sums of our public money to housing providers to subsidise the building of affordable homes. The fund for this amounts to something like £47m over 2019 – 2024.

The disturbing Internal Audit report explains, “During the course of the audit both the member of staff responsible for grant administration and the newly appointed manager with responsibility for oversight left the Council.”

Having confirmed that the managers directly responsible have done a runner, the report then provides a helpful list of the scheme’s absolute failures:

  • There has been insufficient oversight of administration and record keeping, hence issues with data had not been promptly identified 
  • The Housing Delivery Board had met infrequently and had not set requirements for progress reporting of grant awards 
  • The Grant Tracker, the primary record of the progress of grant applications progress and grant award was not fit for purpose and had been poorly maintained. The source and accuracy of the data used for summarisation and reporting could not be relied upon 
  • Data requested by Internal Audit was not readily available and required reconstruction, which upon Internal Audit review were modified 
  • There was no interface between Pro-Contract, the Grant Tracker, and the ABW accounting system, and reconciliations could not be provided 
  • Data was not sufficiently granular to determine whether grants were only awarded within permitted criteria, delivery timelines, within budget, or to the expected build standard 
  • The legal advice in the Decision Pathway Report stating the importance of a robust monitoring process had not been fully implemented and the Council could not be assured that grants provided did not constitute over-compensation
  • No confirmation was received that the risk register referred to in the Housing Delivery Plan existed

To the untrained eye, this looks like a straightforwardly corrupt grant making process where tens of millions in public money has not been properly managed by the council and they’re unable to tell us what has happened to it.

A notion not entirely disabused by housing bosses’ promise going forward of “consistency and completeness of record keeping and evidence to ensure grants were properly awarded, the use of grants was monitored, and assessments made that grants provided value for money.”

Which all rather begs the question as to why the Director responsible, Higson, was paid £27k to disappear last December? Higson, who cut a deal last autumn that was very generous indeed to Caridon, one of the dodgiest landlord firms in the country, now has a lucrative new job in Harrow as Interim Head of Housing. So at least he’s all right then.

Meanwhile, rather than get the cops in to find out what Higson did with our money, Internal Audit have promised a further report in six months time. Something the council’s Audit Committee will discuss on Monday.

Are they doing enough?

WHISTLEBLOWING IN THE WIND

Freewheelin

How many wrongs must a boss investigate

Before they substantiate a claim?

How many thefts must an auditor ignore
With their head in the sand?

Yes, and how many times must the public pay
Before they’re finally paid?

The answer, my friend, is whisleblowin’ in the wind
The answer is whistleblowin’ in the wind

(With apologies to Dylan)

An interesting document emerges from their Audit Committee about whistleblowing at Bristol City Council last year.

It reveals that eight decent workers stepped forward between April 2020 and March 2021 with serious allegations that met the legal criteria for formal whistleblowing. These criteria are

– a criminal offence has been committed;
– someone’s health and safety is in danger;
– there’s a risk or actual damage to the environment;
– there’s a miscarriage of justice;
– the organisation is breaking the law;
– you believe someone is covering up wrongdoing;

So far so good but then we learn from the council’s report that the result of seven of these complaints was that the claims were “unsubstantiated” while the other one was “not considered a whistleblowing matter”. Which raises the question of what is it doing in a whistleblowing report then?

Five of the eight complaints emerged from the Growth and Regeneration department, run for much of the year by the second highest paid local government officer in the country. That’s our dear old friend, Colin “Head Boy” Molton, and the complaints about his department included allegations of, er fraud, corruption, perjury and drug abuse!

However, we are told that in a couple of cases that “control issues [were] identified, and internal audit review commissioned,” which sounds just like something has been substantiated doesn’t it? 

The question that needs to be asked here, then, is what was done to substantiate these whistleblowing claims and who was responsible? For example, if you don’t investigate a complaint then it will remain unsubstantiated won’t it? 

Or if, as the council often does, a claim of wrongdoing is investigated by the manager directly responsible for the matter in question, an investigation will fail to substantiate perfectly reasonable and evidenced claims.

Alas, the report put before the Audit Committee contains no detail about how these whistleblowing complaints were dealt with other than to announce they were all “unsubstantiated” and therefore no boss at the council appears to have done anything wrong (again) in any of the cases.

It’s nothing short of risible that this is the case for eight separate whistleblowing claims and this does nothing to encourage whistleblowing at the council. Why bother to potentially ruin your career to get a sentence in an obscure report stating your claims are “unsubstantiated” without explanation?

”Yes ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn’t see?”

COUNCIL CORRUPTION – OUT OF CONTROL?

Paul Arrogant: “procurement rules are for the little people”

Big shout out to PERFORM GREEN LTD, the lucky recipient of a number of lucrative IT contracts with Bristol City Council. The main one being a contract with the council’s brand spanking new snooping operation (surely state-of-the-art CCTV Traffic Control Centre? Ed.).

This lucky company have scooped £248k so far this year for their selfless public service efforts. Big shout out too to PAUL ARRIGONI, appointed a director of Perform Green Ltd last November, just six months after starting work with the firm in May 2016.

And what remarkable progress this star employee’s made. Unbelievably, since he began employment with the firm, their earnings from the city council have LEAPED from around £5k a month to £28k a month!

But hang on, Paul “Arrogant” Arrigoni? Wasn’t he the Service Director, Business Change and ICT at Bristol City Council until April 2016 when he scarpered in DISGRACE? The man at the centre of the Bundred scandal after his useless Business Change department missed their savings target by a cool £30million and then created an UNLAWFUL BUDGET in 2016 to disguise the losses?

Indeed, so perspicacious was Arrogant in covering his tracks while at Bristol City Council, he even went to the effort of REWRITING an Internal Audit Report for councillors in autumn 2015 assuring them all was well with his savings efforts when it wasn’t.

Adding to this sense of OUTRIGHT CORRUPTION at the heart of Bristol City Council and its endless merry-go-round of bent bosses filling their boots, we’re reliably informed that NO procurement process was undertaken before Perform Green Ltd were awarded their six-figure sum control centre deal with the city council.

Shouldn’t someone be calling Inspector Knacker? (He may even be spending some time at Arrigoni’s control centre …)

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.

BUNDRED: AUDITORS OFF THE HOOK?

After FIVE YEARS of reporting continuous improvement for themselves and the council’s finances to their Audit Committee, the council’s crisis-hit Internal Audit Department makes another historic U-TURN.

They are now reporting to councillors that their “required Internal Audit Plan is not deliverable within existing resources” because of the “scale of finance improvements required”. How can this be when they’ve reported nothing but fantastic IMPROVEMENTS in finance management at the council for the last five years?

Also, in a sloppy piece of DROSS that will be remarkably familiar to anyone who’s seen a child’s homework thrown together five minutes before deadline, the Rev’s Chief Exec Anna “Big Wedge” Klonowski’s meek and mild whitewash – ‘Response to Bundred Review’ (sic) – published last month, singled out the Internal Audit Department for criticism.

“We will seek to improve how reports produced by the internal / external auditor, other regulators and inspectors are dealt with and shared and continue to strengthen our approach for responding to recommendations,” she ambiguously wrote. Presumably this is the formal response after finance investigator Steve Bundred discovered, while looking at Bristol’s £30m overspend, that independent Internal Audit reports for councillors had been secretly REWRITTEN by senior bosses to make it look like they had achieved savings they hadn’t?

Big Wedge went on to say “a peer review of the Internal Audit function has been commissioned which will also embed Key Audit deliverables in Service BAU [business as usual]. Additional resource has been appointed on an interim basis to support the improvement journey.”

So basically this useless department that’s been on a five year journey of FAILURE, INCOMPETENCE and deliberately MISLEADING councillors on finance matters until exposed by Bundred will now be treated to an inclusive, blame-free advice session from fellow-professionals who they know?

Where are the heads on plates?

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?

INTERNATIONAL CUTS WATCH

Bristol City Council seems to be avoiding cuts in some areas. Please step forward the Reverend Mayor, Marvin Rees, who’s decided there should be NO CUTS at all in his personal office; his new chief executive’s office or to his senior leadership team. Areas that have all chronically UNDERPERFORMED over the last five years and cost us a lot of money.

Not that the Reverend gives a shit about saving money when it comes to himself, his self-regarding PUBLICLY FUNDED international lifestyle or his personal office team of EGO PAMPERERS on the rates.

Back on November 30 the Reverend SUSPENDED non-essential spending at the council for ordinary staff delivering services. By Tuesday 6 December he was touching down in China, pretending he was on some sort sales mission.

What the fuck was he selling them? CREAKING, underfunded local public services? SUBSIDISED film studio facilities in Hengrove ideal for overblown costume drama? CHEAP tickets for dodgy middle class comedians at the Colston Hall? The USELESS services of the shittest Internal Audit team the world has ever known?

If a pointless ‘trade mission’ to China by a SMALL and FAILING municipal body led by a pompous, preening figurehead isn’t non-essential, what the fuck is?

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?

AUDIT UPDATE

 Promises by our dear old friends on Bristol City Council’s beyond useless Audit Committee to take a long hard look at the finances of the METROBUS PROJECT on our behalf are floundering after just a few months.

At their meeting on 23 September a question from a member of the public on the Metrobus fiasco could not be answered “as there was not a Transport Officer present”. However, the new chair of the committee, Labour’s Olly “Meadiocre” Mead promised a FULL REPORT would be presented at the November meeting.

Come November, however, and much to the surprise of the public and, we’re told, even members of Meadiocre’s own committee, NO REPORT APPEARED. While a glance at the committee’s detailed schedule for the next year revealed any reference to Metrobus had been carefully REMOVED by unknown council bosses.

So don’t expect any information from Meadiocre’s Audit Committee about your money and Metrobus as they appear to have been very crudely NOBBLED by elements in this city who don’t want you knowing how much of your money is being SQUANDERED on some over engineered bus lanes.

Meanwhile the five year old MARKETS SERVICE finance shambles (Bristolian passim) continues to stagger around somewhere in the vicinity of the Audit Committee like an aging drunk high on laughing gas. A promised report on the council’s DEPARTMENT FOR DISAPPEARING CASH was promised in September. This then inexplicably slipped to November. Now we’re promised something in January.

When this report finally appears will it explain the following statement currently doing the rounds in council finance reports regarding this year’s £30m overspend? “There is a £125K FORECAST SHORTFALL in income against the budget target for Markets as a result of an historic revenue target, which has not been met for the last 5 YEARS.”

That’s a cool £0.6million now pissed up against the wall while an army of useless auditors and an oversight committee of gullible councillors sit on their lazy arses.

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!