Councillors to probe contract management issues in Milton Keynes after ‘damning report’

An in-depth probe of a council’s management arrangements is to be carried out after auditors found weaknesses in the way MK Council has been handling some contracts.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 11:35 am
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 11:36 am

The council’s external auditors, EY, have published what one councillor called a “damning report” before he demanded that the issues be scrutinised in detail by a council committee.

Cllr Charlie Wilson (Lab, Stony Stratford) said the report was damning, and added: “I do see a pattern of failures of contract management,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting of the audit committee.“I have sat through three years of cock ups that we’ve missed and we’ve got to get a grip of this if we want to rely on outside services.

“It’s bad news and we have got to do something about it before it becomes worse news.”

The audit committee in action

The external auditors highlighted what they called a “value for money risk” that they say makes MK Council a potential victim of fraud. No evidence was presented to the committee of any actual loss of council funds.

Maria Grindley, an associate partner at EY, presented her report, which is still being finalised, to the committee. She had looked ar the council’s repairs and maintenance and planned works contracts and found “weak governance arrangements”

“There was a lack of financial and performance monitoring in relation to both contracts.”

The report concluded that “governance over the contracts was weak. The contract management processes and controls were also weak in places.

“We recommend that the authority checks governance and monitoring arrangements against other key contracts to ensure that weaknesses found in this case are not replicated elsewhere.”

EY will be following up its value for money findings in future.

Other councillors also highlighted other financial issues. Their officers’ response was that issues with one contract did not necessarily mean other contracts had issues.

Cllr Allan Rankine (Cons, Bletchley Park) said governance issues were coming up “time after time” and he wanted assurance that the council is “getting to grips” with it. “I’m not feeling it, it’s coming up too much,” he said.

Steve Richardson, the council’s director of finance and resources, said issues in one contract did not transfer to others. “We’ve had different types of issues, I don’t think they are quite the same thing.” He added that lessons were being learned.

Cllr Dan Gilbert (Cons, Loughton & Shenley) seconded Cllr Wilson’s motion to ask the scrutiny management committee to take a look at the issue at a date to be decided.