Article by Nottingham Post:
An internal audit has revealed a 'negative culture' at Nottingham City Council which led to poor governance and institutional blindness among other issues, which run through all of its operations.
The findings were outlined during the council's audit committee meeting at the Council House on Friday, May 28.
In accordance with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards 2011 an assessment and recommendations are required to be made to help improve local government organisations.
During the committee meeting it was revealed the audit highlighted "a number of areas of concern".
This was, it says, created in part by a "prevalent negative culture" at the council.
Numerous areas of concern were brought up including poor governance practices, such as lack of experience and skills on company boards, as well as poor risk management, which included unconstrained expenditure and high debt levels.
Furthermore, the audit revealed there was a failure to hold the council's companies and officers to account, which included lack of evidence for effective monitoring and no template for monitoring the companies, as well as a risk specialist role which was not filled "for a number of years" until 2018.
Both the Public Interest Report (PIR) and the Non-Statutory Review (NSR) identified a number of key, specific issues.
Governance. Voluntary Sector - serious concerns around blurring of Council and party business through the involvement of Councillors in operational work.
Decision Making and Voluntary Sector - significant weaknesses in holding providers of bought services to account. Monitoring and performance reviews did not take place or were less than robust.
Procurement - serious concerns with officers’ compliance with rules and regulations including the NCC Code of Conduct, UK and EU procurement regulations and NCC Financial Regulations and Contract Procedure Rules.
Latest data for IT Security awareness and GDPR training is reported as 71% overall.
Quality Assurance. Disciplinary Process - no formal or owned quality assurance function which had led to questionable decisions not being challenged.
In response to the issues raised the city council says two improvement plans have been created.
These plans will focus on improving the working culture within the council.
The plans will also be accompanied by a 'best practice toolkit' from external auditor Grant Thornton, which conducted its own audit into the council's operations and companies, including Robin Hood Energy.
In its report which was published last year, Grant Thornton also revealed the council needed to look at the way it governs its other firms, including Nottingham City Homes, NCT and EnviroEnergy.
City council leader councillor David Mellen told Nottinghamshire Live:
We are fully committed to taking on board and implementing the recommendations set out in the non-statutory review carried out on behalf of MHCLG last year. We are making good progress on our Recovery and Improvement Plan, which will put the review’s recommendations into action and is underpinned by the need for a change in organisational culture. We are confident that, working constructively with the Government, our partners, and the people of Nottingham, we can deliver the fundamental changes needed and move forward positively to provide a better, more efficient service to the people of Nottingham.
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