LAMBETH PEOPLES AUDIT -101 QUESTIONS FOR LAMBETH COUNCIL’S CABINET – Part Three
QUESTION 89: DO YOU REALLY EXPECT ANYONE TO BELIEVE THAT?
Questions 54 to 90
7.2 CONTRACT MANAGEMENT
The Peoples Audit report says “We also saw examples of tenders where it is quite clear that nobody from Lambeth or its consultants have queried contractors’ prices or questioned whether they are value for money.”
54: Why has no-one from Lambeth queried contractors’ prices?
55: Why has no-one from Lambeth questioned whether they are value for money?
The report says “We found that variations to the contract scope had been paid without corresponding written instructions. “We asked for copies of the instructions from Lambeth for months both directly and via the Information Commissioner. “Once again the Information Commissioner ordered Lambeth to send us the instructions but Lambeth have declined to do so.”
56: Why have Lambeth ignored the request from the Information Commissioner?
The report says “We conclude, therefore, that the instructions never existed….”
57: Did these instructions ever exist?
“…….and that Lambeth have paid for work which was not instructed.”
58: Have Lambeth paid for work which was not instructed?
59: If so what work have Lambeth paid for which was not instructed?
60: And how much have Lambeth paid for work which was not instructed?
The report says “If the instructions did exist they would no doubt have been referenced in the final account.”
61: So why weren’t they?
The report says “Rust is already starting to appear through the decorations carried out by the contractors on one estate, less than a year after the works were carried out. “Residents on other estates can attest to similar issues, which brings into question what monitoring regimes Lambeth have in place.”
62: What monitoring regimes do Lambeth have in place for checking that such work remains up to standard?
8 HOUSING MAINTENANCE
The report cites “Claims for works that had clearly not been carried out.”
63: What is your reaction to this?
64: What investigations have been made to check that all works were carried out?
65: What investigations have been made to check that all works were carried out?
The report says charges were made for works which should be covered by Lambeth’s insurance.
66: Why were charges for works made which should be covered by Lambeth’s insurance?
67: What actions have you taken to ensure this never happens again?
The report says “A request was made to the head of Lambeth’s home ownership services and Lambeth’s area asset manager for the historic repairs data for one estate. “This has never been provided.”
68: Why was this data never provided?
69: If it exists will you now ensure that it is made available?
The report says “Lambeth was to remove the break clause option in Greenwich Leisure’s current contract, thereby ensuring that the contract runs until its expiry date in 2023.”
70: Why was this done?
The report refers to “evidence of a behind-the-scenes agreement by Greenwich Leisure Ltd to reduce its fee to Lambeth by £1 million annually” if Lambeth gave the go-ahead to convert two of its libraries into GLL-run ‘healthy living centres’.
71: Why were GLL allowed a £1 million per year reduction in management fee?
The report says “Nothing in the cabinet papers suggest Greenwich Leisure’s £100,000-a year-sponsorship of the Black Cultural Archives was conditional on this deal to turn libraries into gyms.” (Top of page 17)
72: So why and how was this deal agreed?
10 SALARIES AND REDUNDANCIES
The report says “We would like to be able to tell you how many people Lambeth made redundant but it seems that not even Lambeth know themselves.”
73: Do you now have those figures available?
The report says “This lack of accuracy is a continuing theme that we came across during our audit.”
74: What is your reaction to this?
The report says “The overall amount paid to councillors in allowances rose £110,000 in the year to £1,267,000.”
11 CAPITAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME
The report says “The original budget for Lambeth Housing Standard works during the year was £121 million, whereas only £64.9 million was actually spent against these works. “This could mean that the budgeting forecasts were particularly poor or that the council is not delivering services on time.”
76: Were the budgeting forecasts particularly poor?
77: Or is it that the council is not delivering services on time.?
The report says the council overspent its original budget on corporate office accommodation in Lambeth’s new town hall building. The over-spend here was more than £11,000,000 more than was originally budgeted for.
78: Why was such a huge overspend allowed to happen?
79: What financial management systems were in place – if any?
80: And why was this not spotted?
13.1 PAYMENTS WITHOUT BUDGETS OR AUTHORISATION
The report says “Lambeth issued an internal report requesting retrospective authorisation for the payment of nearly £400,000 paid over the previous two years to a tree surgery company.”
The report says “In the last five years Lambeth have under-declared the amount they paid to Transport Trading Ltd by nearly £8.7m.”
13.3 CONTRACT WAIVERS
The report says “Lambeth have been ignoring standing orders for contract waivers on an industrial scale when it comes to re-tendering existing contracts.”
13.4 APPEARANCE OF PRICE FIXING
The Peoples Audit say “We reported to the external auditor two instances of what we have good reason to believe is evidence of price fixing between some of Lambeth’s contractors.”
84: Have you asked the police to investigate this?
85: IF NOT, WHY NOT?
14 ROLE OF THE EXTERNAL AUDITORS
The report says “The audit fees for Lambeth are the 10th most expensive for a local authority in the UK, on a par with crisis-ridden Tower Hamlets and metropolitan district councils such as Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.”
87: Did the external auditors pick up on the same issues which the Lambeth Peoples Audit picked up on?
88: IF NOT, WHY NOT?
The report says “With regards to the payment of a reduced fee to GLL the auditor’s response was as follows:
‘To address your second point about the reference to Culture 2020 on the invoice and the implication this was the justification for reducing the GLL management fee. ‘I have obtained written representation from the council confirming this was an erroneous note made in error and any other arrangements are non-dependent and not connected to the reduction in fee for the existing contract.’
89: Do you really expect anyone to believe that?
90: What is the real story here?