Wednesday, November 14, 2007

EU Auditors refuse to sign the books again

For the thirteenth consecutive year the auditors have refused to approve the accounts of the European Union.

I cannot think of another organisation to which this could happen. Any commercial business which could not get its books approved in such a timescale would almost certainly be forced into bankruptcy or be taken over as a result of a collapse in public confidence and the directors would be in grave danger of going to jail.

Any elected government or council administration which could not sort out the books in such a period would almost certainly have been voted out of office long since. If the electors failed to remove a council administration the Audit Commission or the government would undoubtedly have taken legal action in the same way that the Thatcher government suspended Liverpool Council and sent in commissioners when Militant refused to set a budget.

Indeed, the failure to get the books audited was one of the factors which did result in the resignation of an entire EU Commission a few years ago, but why has the successor commission not sorted things out?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice one Chris.

But what about Copeland Borough Council, the Council you are elected to, they wont let the public look at the books. Not only that, they are refusing to let the Audit Commission look at the books.

Should our Elected Representatives remove the council administration, I'm with you - yes they should.

But will you?

Chris Whiteside said...

It would be totally unacceptable - and illegal - for any council to refuse to let the Auditors look at the books.

Further, it is important that the results of the annual audit of the books of all councils are made publicly available.

I will be speaking to my colleagues on Copeland's Audit committee. Any interference with the work of the auditors, or failure to make the results of the audit process public, would be unacceptable and should result in a motion of no confidence against those responsible.

Anonymous said...

Hello Chris

The people you need to be speaking to are obviously CBC Chief Executive, Mr Liam Murphy and the Head of Legal and Democratic services, Mr Martin Jepson. Both Officers have went out of their way to prevent public access to the Accounts and other documents, and now it appears they are being equally obdurate with the Audit Commission.

The issue of course is the manifestly defective sale of Whitehaven Golf Course. Council Officers persuaded the Full Council (that’s Councillors of ALL persuasions) to agree to the sale without the Valuation or Offer being disclosed.

The 166 acres Whitehaven Golf Course with Club House and 16 bay Driving Range was subsequently sold on 10 May 2006 for a measly £235,000.

No wonder the Council Officers and Councillors are hiding.

Of course you weren’t on the Council then Chris.

Chris Whiteside said...

Thank you for clarifying that. As you say I was not a member of Copeland Council in 2006.

While a proposed sale or purchase is still under negotiation, the open government legislation is crystal clear. To protect the negotiating position of public bodies such as councils, information about the value of tenders or offers, valuations, and other such advice does not yet have to be made public.

But once a decision has been made, both the legal right to keep information secret and the justification of protecting the council's negotiating position cease to apply.

When any council's accounts are produced they should show what the council recieved or spent and supporting information about why those decisions were taken must be available to the the auditors, and should also be provided to councillors who wish to see them or indeed to any members of the public who make a Freedom of Information request.

I will ask about the sale of the golf course.

Anonymous said...

It is now 29 January 2008. The 2006/2007 Accounts and associated documentation are still not available for inspection to the public or the Audit Commission.

What we know is that Copeland BC extracted "about half a million pounds" out of the Coal Board to put the Golf Course in order. The Course was put in order and operated for a number of years, then in May 2006 Copeland BC went and sold it for £235,000 to Western Lakes Limited. The Council claim they achieved Best Value even though they never put the Golf Course up for sale on the open market.

A comparison of the 1990's valuations used for the Litigation and the valuations used for the Sale would be most informative. If these documents ever see the light of day I am sure it would indicate massive financial impropriety.

Have you really asked about the Sale of the Golf Course?

Chris Whiteside said...

I spoke to colleagues about this last year. They have suggested a number of lines of inquiry. I am following these.

Chris Whiteside said...

To clarify the current situation with respect to the golf course, I have put a new post on the blog today.

There has been a complaint about the golf course sale to the District Auditor. Council officers assure me that they have provided the District Auditor with all the information he has asked for. His investigation is still in progress.

Anonymous said...

Chris

The 2006/2007 Accounts are supposed to be in the Public Domain. When will these Accounts be available for public inspection? I have been trying to see the details of this May 2006 Sale since January 2007, but Council Officers repeatedly deny access.

What have they got to hide? We now the Councillors were negligent in Agreeing to the Sale, but were the Officers also negligent in recommending it? I certainly think so.


£235,000 for a 166 acre golf course with views in to the Lake District, with club house and driving range.

Was it really valued correctly by Copeland BC's valuer? (The only valuation the Council sought)
Was BEST VALUE really achieved?

You don't need to be an economist to work that one out Chris.

Chris Whiteside said...

I have asked when the accounts will be published and am chasing on this. It will also be interesting to see what the District Auditor has to say.

Anonymous said...

If Copeland BC were open and honest and made the Accounts available then there may have been no need for the District Auditor to become involved.

Looking at the issue of the defective Sale (mates rates), and the Council's refusal to take enforcement action against this Company's illegal activities, there appears to be only one explanation - CORRUPTION.