LEAKED: Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson hits out at 'cynical' press coverage of council's annual internal audit
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson is not very happy with the reporting in today's ECHO of failures identified by the council's internal audit department.
He used the council's message of day function on the council's intranet to hit out at the story (which carried a statement from the council and which Mayor Anderson did not take the opportunity to comment on).
The message of the day 'In response to press coverage of the Annual Internal Audit Report' has been leaked to Dale Street Associates, here it is:
Colleagues, today the council has been labelled as a 'Calamity Council' by the Liverpool Echo. This cynical, negative attitude is all too typical of coverage of the city council, where every missed bin or road closure is reported in a negative way. It chips away at people's confidence in the Council and trust in democracy. It is disappointing that they don't show the same interest in how we have managed the cuts, or how we are working day and night to attract investment. Their coverage of the Annual Internal Audit Report is an example of this, and it saddens me greatly to see the hard work of staff taken out of context and portrayed in this way. We are open and transparent about what we do and address our weaknesses, we will not hide where we have failed or under-performed, we will take it on the chin and change how we do things for the future. The Audit report is our own internal report which shows we have nothing to hide. One example that is quite staggering is the press's criticisms of the council over blue badges. The evidence, both locally and nationally, shows that blue badge fraud is one of the most prevalent fraud issues affecting local authorities. The proactive work that we have already taken in response to this national blight is to secure 500 prosecutions, confiscations and cautions through a new team set up specifically to tackle the issue. In addition, the number of public car park spaces occupied by blue badges has fallen from 37 percent to 20 percent, indicating that the measures we are putting in place to combat this abuse are working.
The city council is responsible for more than £1 billion of public money every year. The Council's Internal Audit Service makes sure we are meeting the highest possible standards for management of the council's finances.
The newspaper story, while taking extracts from the report, did not accurately reflect the context of much of the work that has been done, and is still being done, to tackle issues highlighted. We would like to reassure you that the overall picture is one of improvement. In particular that the overall controls we have in place are adequate and effective and the overall direction of travel is positive.
Here are some steps we have already taken, in addition to the proactive work around blue badges, in relation to issues that the newspaper chose to refer to:
Driver CRB checks
The Fleet team is in the process of finalising the improvements to their recording systems, and Internal Audit will be undertaking a follow up audit in August/September to ensure the recommendations have been put in place.
All contracts now go through a procurement board chaired by the Director of Finance and Resources and robust governance arrangements for procurement are in place. The procurement board is also closely linked with the commissioning board chaired by a Chief Officer. In future, no contract will be tendered or let without approval from the procurement board to ensure compliance with standing orders and legislation. A training programme is planned for August and will ensure every officer responsible for procurement and contracts management will receive refresher training and have support in their role to ensure these weaknesses are corrected.
The 22 percent increase in whistleblowing is welcomed as it shows our staff have confidence that they can raise issues that concern them. We will continue to raise awareness of the procedures.
Registering of gifts and hospitality
We have implemented an electronic system to allow senior staff to register these effectively and in a timely manner and a new wave of training which will address the issues raised in the audit report will take place in the autumn.
For those audits with a high risk rating, which was minimal, action plans have been put in place to address all the issues raised and significant progress has been made. As Mayor, I am 100 percent satisfied that our procedures we have in relation to audit reporting and the strong management actions taken in response are robust and comprehensive. It is regrettable that the press chose not to highlight these measures in its coverage.
Joe Anderson Mayor of Liverpool
Tuesday 24 July 2012