Leader at odds with Milton Keynes Council committee over ‘secret’ status of audit report
The publication of a report into a claim that £15 million is “currently unaccounted for” in a controversial Milton Keynes regeneration contract was blocked, despite Milton Keynes Council’s leader calling for it to be published in full.
Your MK, whose motto was ‘Today, Tomorrow, Together’, was set up in 2016, with £1m input from MK Council, to handle the council’s entire multi-million pound regeneration process – starting with consultation with residents.
In July, 2018 Your MK was stripped of this work by the council which slammed it as ‘not good enough’ in the way it has handled the city’s multi billion pound regeneration scheme.
A meeting of MK Council’s Audit Committee on March 5, was been told by deputy chief executive, Paul Simpson, a ‘whistleblowing’ letter made a number of claims regarding the financial and contractual arrangements between Your MK and Mears (the council’s housing repairs and maintenance contractor).
He says: “The letter included a statement that “c £15 million is currently unaccounted for.
“Given the potential severity of this statement, the corporate director, resources immediately commissioned the council’s external auditor to undertake a review of the financial and contractual arrangements associated with Your MK and Mears.”
The council’s internal audit team have also completed an audit of the housing repairs contract, which has included testing a sample of transactions referred to in the whistleblowing letter.
The partnership was also responsible for the repair and maintenance of all the council homes in MK.
The council’s internal and external auditors have shared their preliminary findings with the Audit Committee in secret papers away from the press and public.
Mr Simpson adds: “It is not possible to conclude the review, until the completion of the audit of the council’s year–end accounts (scheduled for June 2019).”
The Audit committee agreed with a recommendation that they exclude the press and public, despite the council’s leader calling for it to be made public in full.
Some three hours earlier, council leader Pete Marland, speaking at the start of another committee meeting, called for publication of the audit report.
Cllr Marland, who has seen the interim report, said: “The claim that there is £15 million unaccounted for has no foundation and we will be calling for the report to be published in full because of the reputational issues involved.”