REVEALED: Grant Thornton’s previously secret £50,0000 report into how Wirral Council played the regeneration game
If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call (Grant Thornton)
If it’s somethin’ weird and it won’t look good
Who ya gonna call (Grant Thornton)
Yes, my challenge for today is “making accountants sound interesting” (wish me luck)!
So where to start this tale that has about as much twists, turns and complexity as a Dan Brown thriller? Well in order to keep your attention and not send you to sleep I’ll be comparing what happened to far more exciting things (as this blog isn’t called “101 fascinating tales of bean counting”).
Wirral Council paid a company called Enterprise Solutions (NW) Limited approximately a million pounds for work done on a program called ISUS (a program to support businesses). It also paid them for work on another scheme called BIG (a business grants program). However something had gone wrong so Wirral Council sent in a crack team of accountants from Grant Thornton to investigate.
This blog has no file photo of Grant Thornton’s crack team of accountants, so using perhaps more artistic licence than is necessary this is the blogger’s impression of them (from the film Ghostbusters) (although being accountants they were probably wearing suits instead).
This intrepid team (who were paid ~£50,000 for all this) went to interview the whistleblowers who worked for Enterprise Solutions (NW) Limited to find out what had happened. As Enterprise Solutions (NW) Ltd is an absurdly long name that takes forever to type I will from now on instead be calling them the USS Enterprise instead.
There was trouble on the USS Enterprise and the whistleblowers said (this is a summary of hundreds of page of a report) that the “the engines cannae’ take it anymore”. Money was being fed into the USS Enterprise’s engines from Wirral Council. Its mission was to seek out new businesses and boldly help them (in the form of grants and other assistance). However the whistleblowers knew that thing were going very wrong and detailed the who, what, where, why and when.
The crack team from Grant Thornton heard what the whistleblowers had to say and then tried to investigate what had happened. They even went to the USS Enterprise to investigate further and spent three days there.
However, someone senior on the USS Enterprise heard about this and perhaps frightened that they might find something that would lead to a court-martial prevented Grant Thornton from setting foot on the ship ever again. This was despite the contract between Wirral Council and the USS Enterprise stating that Wirral Council could have access to their “accounts and records” (although there’s a long running controversy as to whether this contract was ever signed). This didn’t however deter (much) the crack team of accountants who then wrote (as best they could) reports on both the BIG and ISUS programs.
These reports went to Wirral Council, who then refused to publish them, giving the reason that they had referred some of the matters in it to the Merseyside Police. They felt that publishing it would prejudice any potential future criminal prosecutions (but there are also others that felt this was an extremely convenient excuse to prevent Wirral Council being embarrassed by what Grant Thornton had discovered).
A long, long time later the Merseyside Police got back in touch with Wirral Council with a letter that can be summed up by we can’t charge or ask the CPS to prosecute people in this matter as the police had been denied access to key evidence they’d need.
So then Wirral Council convened a special meeting of its Audit and Risk Management Committee to discuss the whole matter.
That is it in a nutshell (leaving an awful lot out too). The detailed nature of what the whistleblowers alleged is far beyond a few hundred words I have here to do justice to and I’m sure will be discussed next Tuesday evening at a special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee.
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