Posted by: John Brace | 30th September 2015

What’s in the 370 page whistleblowing report on Wirral Council’s grants to businesses?

What’s in the 370 page whistleblowing report on Wirral Council’s grants to businesses?

 

ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo

ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

The BIG/ISUS whistleblowing issues have been already covered in extensive detail by this blog over the past few years. However the latest twist in this story was yesterday’s release of a 370 page 2012 internal audit report into the matter following ICO decision notice FS50559883.

Wirral Council have finally released an internal audit report dated 13th January 2012 that went to Bill Norman (then Monitoring Officer/Director of Law, HR and Asset Management at Wirral Council). Those with long memories will remember that Bill Norman was suspended later that year over the Colas matter, then in September 2012 councillors agreed he should receive £146k plus £5k legal expenses to leave.

Back to the BIG/ISUS matters and let’s just quickly recap the blog posts I’ve written on the many aspects of this matter as they provide some background. I’m sure there are one or two I may have left out (I remember I republished some of my earlier blog posts which contained the agreements for BIG/ISUS in the lead up to the special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee last October).

So that’s a brief summary of developments so far? So what does the new information reveal? It’s a report by an auditor at Wirral Council which details the allegations the two whistleblowers made, the investigations into those allegations and the auditor’s opinion as to whether the whistleblowers were correct or not.

The executive summary runs from pages 9-16 and details the allegations made by the two whistleblowers and whether what was inspected during the investigation substantiated or refuted these claims. Pages 17-20 go through each of the allegations in detail as well as whether each allegation is correct or not and the implications that follow. Pages 21-45 are the main report which at the end contain 14 recommendations. Had some of these recommendations been implemented in 2012, some of the unanswered questions surrounding this matter would have been dealt with much earlier, such as the transfer of assets from Lockwood to Harbac.

At the special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee in October 2014, councillors, officers and those speaking at the public meeting were warned not to refer to names of companies, yet the release of this 2012 audit report only removes the names of Wirral Council employees (and former employees). These matters are now out in the open (which should’ve happened before the Audit and Risk Management Committee met last year). Had this 2012 internal audit report been made available to councillors before that meeting the discussion may have been very different.

However it only came to light because of a FOI (Freedom of Information) request made by one of the whistleblowers and even then only after the Information Commissioner’s Office intervened with a decision notice. Certainly the whistleblowers must both feel vindicated by the conclusions reached in this detailed 2012 internal audit report.

The Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Wirral Council plus the Green Party Councillor Pat Cleary have tabled the following Notice of Motion for the next Council meeting on the 12th October 2015 on the subject of FOI requests. It reads as follows:

OPEN GOVERNMENT ?

This Council recognises that the Information Commissioner’s Office, as the independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest and to promote openness by public bodies, upheld 13 complaints against Wirral Council in the past year.

Of the 18 notices issued between 29 September 2014 and 24 August 2015, the majority (72%) of complaints were upheld.

Council believes that this is a matter for concern, requiring an explanation to its Members.

Council requests that lessons should be learned and applied from these decisions and questions whether Officers have been excessively cautious or defensive in their interpretation of the legislation.

Council, therefore, requests that the legislation is approached with greater regard to the ‘public interest test’ so that the risk of further reputational damage to Wirral can be reduced.

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:


Responses

  1. I make the comment most obvious to me but which needs restating. This investigation report of January 2012 is very nearly complete, the work of a conscientious office before she left the Authority, just as both James and myself expected of the lady. It lacks for BIG simply the ML Engineering file accidentally discovered hidden in wirralbiz by myself over the Xmas 2011 period. The latter as a scrappy file of very few pages which would swiftly have been absorbed at the next meeting of myself ad Mr David Garry.

    Why then did the Council permit the BIG investigation to be stymied effectively for another 18 months before the publication of Grant Thornton’s BIG executive summary?

    The work on BIG was so far to be complete at January 2012 that I am re-affirmed in my belief of conduct unbecoming . The release of this report does hamper the proper conduct of the internal audit function , one of the exemption claims put forward by WBC’s Surjit Tour and then by Eric Robinson, because it shows that conscientious work by a principal auditor can be ignored for political and face-saving reasons.

    All the above at the expense of two whistleblowers, the expense of the rate-paying public forking out additional fees, not least £50,000 to Grant Thornton, and to the erdf as wirralbiz continued to draw erdf funds,ultimately clawed back to tune of £4.5m from the “Making Business Work” principal the “Social Enterprise Network”, though never recovered. Some councillors have had the mickey taken out from them as had the Daily Post who agreed to lay off stories in Summer 2012 on condition that D Garry’s report be made available to them, to turn up at Town Hall and be told there was no report.

    We will never kow whether this release of a report contributed to Mr Adderley’s voluntary severance; all i know is that it ought to have!

    • I would make an educated guess that the time involved in going through a 370 page report removing the names of Wirral Council officers is what was claimed would hamper the internal audit function.

      However it means the 370 page report (with names) would’ve been available before it was released. Had it been made available to Grant Thornton when they did their reports, I doubt their investigation would’ve cost £50,000.

      The Daily Post is no more. However the internal audit report must’ve been available with the names weeks before it was released. In this decision notice Wirral Council estimates 15 minutes to consider redactions per a page. So that gives an estimate of 92 1/2 hours to take out the officer names in a 370 page report (including the checking by a senior officer). Therefore the report itself in a complete form would’ve had to be available well before the 35 day deadline and maybe even a fortnight or more before.

  2. G’day John

    When will Wirral “Funny” Bizz be in court?

    When will the whistleblowers get serious thanks, apologies and justice?

    Not just some insincere email from “Sir Git”.

    When will the rest of the crud of lying, deceitful senior officers and councillors be extracted as not fit for public service?

    Ooroo

    James

  3. G’day John

    Was that reverent enough for you you little monkey I didn’t even use the C word when talking of all the crud at Wirral.

    Ooroo

    James

    CONSPIRACY………… you little larrikin.

    You just have to laugh at them, how can they be taken seriously?

    “Phil the Deluded Dill”

    “Ankles”

    “The Pretend Friend”

    “The Shyster”

    “He who can talk for…not even worth the ink to mention…angry little shit..

    et al

  4. G’day John

    It would be a good night tonight at the meeting for the crud of Wirral clowncillors to step down.

    An opportunity for all thos