A joint report of the Strategic Director Finance, Governance and Support and the Monitoring Officer/Head of Legal Services was presented to inform Members of the findings of an Internal Audit Report in relation to Whistle blower Concerns regarding Land and Property Disposals.
Internal Audit had carried out a number of audits in relation to the Councils previous land and property disposals. Those audits resulted in a number of recommendations in relation to how the process to be followed in property disposals could be improved from a transparency and record-keeping perspective. Those recommendations were incorporated into the Council Improvement Plan (CIP), the implementation of which was overseen by the Performance and Partnerships team and supported by Deloitte, and which had now been embedded.
Internal Audits overall conclusion was that taking all three of the disposals together, the overall opinion from the additional work carried out would be a cause for concern bordering on significant concern. No evidence of criminal activity had been identified.
The content of the Audit Report had been considered by the Strategic Director Finance, Governance and Support and the Monitoring Officer to determine whether any specific actions were required to investigate either deliberate malpractice or fraudulent activity. While the conclusion stopped short of an absolute guarantee, as might be expected, the conclusion was that there was no evidence of such practice. It was therefore not considered necessary to take these matters further since the issues of systematic weakness had already been addressed through the CIP.
The recommendation that Internal Audit should continue to have a focus on land and property disposals in their Annual Plan was fully supported by the Strategic Director Finance, Governance and Support and the Monitoring Officer.
The Chair reminded Committee Members that the report was presented for information and that processes were now in place to address the concerns raised. The role of the Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee was to seek assurance that the new processes were working effectively to prevent any weaknesses in the system. A Member queried the recent developments in relation to Centre Square and the Chair agreed that it would be useful for the Committee to receive information on the governance process.
Questions were also posed regarding the content of the Internal Audit report in relation to the conclusion, due diligence checks, state aid, best value for the TAD Centre, and criminality. The Strategic Director Finance, Governance and Support, Monitoring Officer, Internal and External Auditors provided responses as appropriate.
A Member proposed that the Committee recommended that a police investigation was undertaken into the land and property disposals detailed in the Internal Audit report. It was clarified, however, that such a recommendation was not within the remit of the Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee and it was re-iterated that the Internal Audit report was presented for information only.
AGREED as follows:
1. that the report was received and noted.
2. an update on the Centre Square development would be provided to the Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee.