Council’s Finance Department Rated ‘Poor’ By Auditors

town hall windows signAn internal audit of the Council’s Finance Department has rated them as ‘poor’ in every area they inspected, with two being labelled as ‘high risk.’

The report, which will be given to councillors at this morning’s Policy and Resources Committee meeting, was written by auditors from Cornwall Council. They inspected the service in September last year.

The auditors found several problems with financial governance including staff needing to verifying who was entitled to council tax discounts and exemptions.

And there were security issues with access to the Council’s IT systems.

Senior Manager for Finance Laura Roberts wrote that “significant work” has now been conducted to control access to the Council’s systems and files.

Last year, the authority was ordered by the Information Commissioner to improve training for all its staff after breaking Data Protection laws.

The auditors also said the authority didn’t have an up-to-date list of who was connected to the mains water and sewerage systems. That means they might not be charging properly for the service.

Roberts writes in her report: “This independent audit enables council to fully understand its areas of improvement and the consequences of not applying sufficient resources to address historic issues.”

However, it’s unlikely that councillors will be given the chance to debate the report, which has been placed in the part of the meeting reserved ‘for information only.’

And over a year since the arrival of new Chief Executive Theo Leijser, councillors will also hear how the authority’s Finance and Resources team has been running at just 65% of required staffing levels since September.

It’s not the first time that councillors have been warned about insufficient resources in the Finance Department.

In the Policy and Resources Meeting last April, former Head of Finance Iain McCulloch told Chairman Amanda Martin they were “running below capacity” following the departure of former Director of Finance and Resources, Peter Lawrence.

In the report at today’s meeting, Senior Officer for Finance Sarah Chodkiewicz writes that it’s “proving to be increasingly difficult to recruit skilled staff, stretching existing resources and resulting in delays in reporting, developing improved processes and systems.”

At several committee meetings this month, councillors have complained about late or incomplete financial reports and difficulty understanding the layout of the figures provided.

And earlier this month, the Council announced that Roberts had decided to leave her role to return to the mainland after just seven months in the job.



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