Freesteel Blog » No auditing or no accountability in Liverpool

No auditing or no accountability in Liverpool

Monday, February 16th, 2009 at 11:22 am Written by:

I went to the Audit and Accounts Committee for Liverpool City last week as the only member of public there to witness the total lack of oversight by our esteemed councillors. I was distracted by the false conviction that Councillor Andrew Makinson was the same man as the bastard barrister Neil Cameron whom I saw perform at the Edge Lane Public Inquiry in 2008 where he acted as a human conduit for converting money into wrong decisions. (“Only doing my job mate. What I’m paid for.”) Everything follows from the decision to pour money into that immoral man’s pockets for the misuse of his intellect. Money then converts into power, and the cycle of vice in the process of our misgovernance is closed.

The councillors, seat-warmers to the last man and woman, ran through the agenda (missing out the presentation of risk management complete with 4-times tables that I was looking forward to) and brought up nothing of interest about the Accounts or Audit that wasn’t in the dossier written by the Council Officers (equivalent of the city civil service) about their own performance.

I worked through it with my head buzzing with ridiculous acronyms — BV (Best Value), PI (Performance Indicator), KLOE (Key Lines of Enquiry), UOR (Use of Resources).

Here’s their report on DQ (Data Quality) which says what BVPIs are going up or down, but doesn’t give absolute values! (Too hard for us, is it?)

What is SIIP? Stuffed if I know. Or is it “Strategic Innovation and Improvement Plan”.

I’ll give you some Strategic Innovation:

Dear Sir or Madam,

At the Audit and Accounts Committee meeting on 11 February 2009 of Liverpool City Council, the attendees were presented with the “Internal Audit Progress Report to December 2008” which said:

“The audit review of the FOI processes concluded that limited assurance could be placed on the control environment. The scope of the audit was affected due to problems encountered with Non Stop Gov software and this limited the testing which could be undertaken. A number of recommendations were made aimed at improving the training and awareness of both the designated FOI Champions and officers involved in dealing with requests.”

Please may I have copies of:

* all documents associated with this audit review of the FOI processes. In particular I would like to see details of what problems were encountered with the Non Stop Gov software and the recommendations made for improving its performance.

* records of payments made for the Non Stop Gov software and any contracts and service level agreements signed relating to the delivery of this product since it was introduced (probably in February 2007).

Further notes:

In case the Council believes it has a duty to protect narrow short-term “commercial interests” of its chosen suppliers, please understand that it is in the public interest for Councils across the country to have access to the most effective and robust computer software possible in their day-to-day administration. Experience has proven that when software issues are declared publicly they are more likely to get fixed, since it provides accurate advice to future potential customers and has the effect of
encouraging investment in software development and excellence rather than in marketing and crisis management.

That’s just FOI tracking.

I’m saving inquiries into their TRIBAL asset management software — which is such a core business of that YAFCC (Yet Another Fing Consultant Company) that it’s parked under their “education products and services section” and is probably an unbelievably trivial closed source application hyped up by some suits to the credulous council officers — about which it is reported:

Whilst recognising the positive steps being taken by the Council to improve its financial statements the Audit Commission highlighted the following areas for improvement for the 2008/09 annual accounts process:

  • That there was still further scope to improve the overall quality of working
  • That the Tribal property database was incomplete and that Officers had already identified that fixed assets were approximately overstated by £4million as a result of duplicate assets. Consequently, the Audit Commission identified that there were still significant weaknesses in respect of the Council’s arrangements for the valuation, accounting and reconciliation of its fixed assets.
  • That the Council needed to strengthen its arrangements to ensure the appropriate accounting treatment for the varied development schemes and partnership arrangements that it was involved with

You can say that again. And I’m not even an outside government auditor able to perform functions of oversight and critique that the City Councillors seem to singularly fail at doing even slightly. This is pretty pathetic.

Every report and action by the Audit Commission is a damning indictment of the whole local democracy council governance system. If the system worked, the councillors and their agents (whom they could insist were hired on the tax payer’s dime) would be going over their own city’s business and discovering all the obvious process deficiencies — like the fact that the city doesn’t keep track of what it owns — and this activity would be discussed in the Audit and Accounts Committee.

Rather than the Council doing any investigation of the city administration themselves, the workflow appears to be:

  • Audit Commission looks at Liverpool City Council’s books
  • Audit Commission makes its reports and recommendations
  • Audit Commission sends its reports to the Council Officers
  • Council Officers implement bits of it
  • Council Offices writes up some excuses and puts them in the agenda of the Audit and Accounts Committee of the Council
  • Councillors who have been assigned to the Audit and Accounts Committee come to the twice yearly meeting and go through the agenda produced by the Council Officers.
  • Councillors do not bring questions arising from their own investigation, or refer to anything in the original Audit Commission’s report directly.

As I said: seat-warmers.

Asset database: Obviously the target is to get this entire Tribal property database of everything the Council owns on-line and onto a mash-up, and tie in every expense billed by the council to a particular asset on the map.

Liverpool airport expansion: Although the LibDem national Party have reasonable environmental policies (eg opposing the Heathrow third runway), the LibDem Councillors in control of the City are blindly in favour of the local airport expansion with whole-hearted unforgiving support of insanities such as air commuter flights to London (back in February 2007):

The Belgian airline (VLM), which originally ran the service five times a day, reduced its operation to two flights a day last month.

Cllr Bradley believes that the air link must be sustained if the city is to prosper.

He said: “Liverpool’s GVA (the measure of the local economy) is outstripping every other North West area and we are powering ahead economically.

“It is vital Liverpool has a direct air link to and from London if we are to attract more jobs and investment. We want to sell our city to the world, a truly international place once again, looking outwards, and a well-used link to our own capital city is a must.”

He added: “A fast commuter route to the heart of London is incredibly valuable and also makes it easy for business people and tourists to travel to and from Liverpool.

“I urge business leaders to support VLM instead of alternative train services. We spent a long time campaigning for this link and VLM showed confidence in this city by launching the service. It is essential we repay their faith by making the most of it.”

The fight to set up the London air link was spearheaded by the Daily Post’s successful Fight for a Flight Campaign.

Cllr Bradley further believes that the significance of the Liverpool/London air link will be realised during the next 18 months as the city continues to celebrate its 800th birthday and welcomes Europe to Capital of Culture events in 2008.

Chief executive of BusinessLiverpool Mike Taylor added his weight to the increasing importance of the air link.

He said: “While at this moment the existing VLM service may well be viewed by the airline as uneconomic, we have some major drivers about to come on stream in Liverpool, which will add significant demand to the London/Liverpool service.

“I believe we should all be working more closely with VLM to ensure that this additional demand is understood, evaluated and anticipated so that a long term, sustainable, high frequency service can be secured.”

The Mersey Partnership, which lobbied for the launch of the VLM service, has also backed the “Use it, or Lose It” plea.

TMP chairman Roy Morris said: “This route is clearly under threat, as we have stated a number of times in recent months each time the timetable is reduced.

“The city council is right to renew our warnings over the future of the route. We believe there are more passengers using the flights on the revised timetable and that has to be an encouraging sign. We’re constantly reminding our 440 private and public sector members that the route is under threat.”

There was a question posed about this policy disconnect by the Green Party councillors at the last general meeting. I am unable to find any reference to it in the meeting minutes. (The answer is reported only on the Green Party website.) If anyone doubts that they’ve got their heads screwed on over this, watch carefully:

John Coyne: The [City Council] Leader will be aware that Susan Kramer leads the Liberal Democrats’ campaign against the expansion of Heathrow and a third runway there.

Does he agree with her statements on 11th January that “The Government’s credibility on climate change depends on this decision.” and that “Pushing ahead with Heathrow expansion will show up ministers’ warm words on the environment to be nothing more than hot air.”?

If so, why do Liberal Democrats in Liverpool support the continuing expansion of Liverpool airport?

Response: There was absolutely no strategic reason why Heathrow requires a third runway, or further expansion, and I fully endorse Susan Kramer’s comments.

To compare Liverpool John Lennon Airport with London Heathrow is nothing short of lunacy, and I wonder when Cllr Coyne is to ask the question as to whether Liverpool can become a one horse town again.

Fact: A large proportion of Heathrow’s capacity is taken up with internal flights from cities where there is a perfectly good rail link. This is a symptom of the long-term lack of an integrated transport policy, which has proven to be a very profitable state of affairs for air and road business lobbies who demonstrate an effective ownership of the government.

Weekend caving: On Saturday I did the Maskill Mine to Oxlow Cavern connection, which didn’t involve as much caving as it did rope. I need to get some new rope climbing gear that isn’t so frayed. Most of the rest of the caving gear stank beyond all possible use due to the presence of a cat that had been locked in our garage for several days pissing all over our stuff. On Sunday we cycled around the Peak district in the rain.

1 Comment

  • 1. Freesteel&hellip replies at 13th October 2009, 8:15 pm :

    […] you want Carlisle to become a one horse town like Liverpool would become if it gave up its […]

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <strong>