At last night’s Extraordinary Meeting to discuss the Report in The Public Interest and debate the recommendations a number of very damning comments were made by the Auditors in respect of the lack of risk management and due process around many of the decisions taken, in particular those around our prudential borrowing and due diligence around significant capital and transformation expense.
When the Conservatives had control of the Town Hall and its Finances I chaired the Audit Committee for a number of years and held a conference here in Croydon at which 90 delegates from 34 Authorities across the South East of London attended to learn from our good practice here in Croydon.
Here is what I said at that conference:
CPA ‘Use of Resources’ and now the Comprehensive Area Assessments have contributed to the profile and importance of governance being significantly raised over recent years. Audit Committees and their equivalents are at the top of the governance tree and their importance has never been higher.
At Croydon we achieved 4 out of 4 for the last published ‘Use of Resources’ assessment, including a 4 for the key internal control block and recognition of a ‘Notable Practice’ relating to our Audit Advisory Committee. However, we recognise that expectations are rising and that assessments are becoming harder, so it is vital for us as Audit Committee members to ensure that we understand our role in challenging our organisations to achieve robust and appropriate governance.
Part of achieving this requires us to keep up to date with developments in the key governance areas that fall within our remit. The fact that you have all attended today confirms that we are not alone in recognising the need to keep developing. To this end we have assembled for you today an impressive panel of speakers with presentations on internal audit, fraud, risk management and the increasingly important area of partnership governance. Each of these strands will help to ensure that our Audit Committees are able to make a positive contribution to our organisations’ governance, and performance under the new Comprehensive Area Assessments.
At a following meeting at Full Council I said this: “We are a leading Authority in this field and the transparency and way in which this system is driven by the leadership and cabinet in conjunction with council officers is second to none and has been complimented by the District Auditor. It is processes like this that gives us better foresight into the problems facing the Authority and how to efficiently manager those problems and situations so that we know well in advance what steps to take giving us a clear direction of travel and better equipping us for financial stability”.
So what went wrong – I took the Audit Committee to the highest achievable level with the best practice and good governance embedded in the Authority. Risk management and good governance was at the top of the agenda. It seems that everything I established was thrown out the window when Labour took office - sadly to the detriment of the residents in this borough who are going to have to pay for their grave mistakes.