Monday, 5 December 2011

Future Jobs Fund - NCC and a Certain Person Criticised Again

NCC has posted its latest 'Annual Audit Letter'* (AAL) from the Audit Commission to its website. A dull and rather fusty document normally but this one contains a chunk of info the NCC will NOT be keen to draw your attention to. So I suppose I'd better.

You'll remember that former councillor Hassan Ahmed decided not to run for office at the last local election and the Post speculated it might have been due to skullduggery with the Future Jobs Fund. Well the the AAL confirms that he was in the firing line. The letter only contains brief details but does say that a full report on the matter was sent to NCC in November but they have so far chosen not to make it public. Funny that.

So, what do we know so far? Let's simply quote in full what the District Auditor says -
  • "The Council (acting as accountable body) has failed to comply with the requirements of its own constitution, standing orders and financial regulations in awarding Future Jobs Fund and Community Programme contracts. In particular, specific individuals failed to demonstrate appropriate accountability for the decisions taken. These failures were compounded by poor record keeping within the Council
  • My investigation has led me to conclude that the relevant Portfolio Holder’s conduct may have been in breach of paragraph 3(2)(d) of the Code of Conduct (conduct which has compromised or is likely to compromise the impartiality of officers). My concerns arise from the need for transparency and good corporate governance rather than that there was any actual inappropriate allocation of contracts (in relation to which I did not find any evidence).
  • The role of partners as set out in the original bids did not fully materialise in practice: As a consequence, some partners felt let down and had concerns around consistency and transparency. In my view the Council could have done more to allay these concerns by being more open and transparent about the need for changes and to ensure everyone was given an equal opportunity to respond to these changes."
The 'relevant Portfolio Holder' was of course our old mucker Hassan Ahmed. Note the finding that he breached the members code of conduct, which is the second time he has been found guilty of this. he has gone now as I say but the other findings, including that NCC breached its constitution, standing orders and financial regulations is as damning as it gets.

It's not clear whether NCC intends to make the full report public. There have been numerous rumours about the matter for some time involving certain usual suspects. If it is going to be made public it is likely to be alongside the AAL at the next Audit Committee meeting due on 6 January 2012. If it doesn't appear there it'll be Freedom of Info Act time again.

* Since posting this document yesterday, NCC removed it from their website, presumably hoping to scupper my article in the process. This is why the link now goes to Google Docs, where I saved a copy.

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