This report details the outcome of the process carried out by Waverley Borough Council and the subsequent action taken by the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which resulted in the criminal conviction of a former member of Waverley Borough Council staff.
It is recommended that :
The strengthened governance arrangements are considered and endorsed by Audit Committee.
Tom Horwood, Chief Executive of Waverley Borough Council read a statement to the Audit Committee (copy attached to these Minutes).
Cllr Jerry Hyman had registered to speak on this matter. He advised that he had been part of a group, along with the gentleman who had made the Freedom of Information request. Cllr Hyman asked what action has been taken to avoid this ever happening again; why the names of the officers interviewed had been redacted when it was all in the public domain; and, why the report did not contain information that Councillors were interviewed also.
Cllr Hyman went on to raise concern that a legal notice had been submitted by Waverley Borough Council to Crest Nicholson on 29/12/2010 by the Air Quality Officer at the time (not the one referred to in the report), advising they could not approve the Brightwells planning application due to an incomplete EIA. However this had not been considered when the application was approved. He felt this was a matter of governance and did not feel it was suitable for this administration to say the issue was closed when it clearly was not.
Cllr Hyman thanked officers for a very open report and acknowledged that the redactions were mainly concerning employment issues.
Cllr Hyman’s last comment related to paragraph 3.7 of the report which was exempt but which he hoped members of the committee would consider and question.
The committee agreedthat the way forward was to strengthen controls.
Richard Homewood reported that lessons had been learned. Waverley had now introduced two contracts: one for diffusion tubes and one to manage the Automatic Air Quality Monitors. In addition, the raw data was published monthly so it was in the public domain. One company also carried out quality assurance checks on the other and there were now much tighter controls overall.
Cllr Floyd-Douglass asked if there were any other areas of the council where only one staff member was responsible for a specific function. Graeme Clark advised that we were not aware of any others but internal audit routinely look at this within the control network. Internal audit would endeavour to eliminate any risk of this and look at strengthening controls.
Cllr Wilson asked if the fact the officer concerned was in secondary employment was a factor and asked whether there were controls in relation to secondary employment by council employees. Annie Righton explained that this had been looked at but was not thought to have been contributory. Tom Horwood stated that employees needed to seek permission to seek secondary employment and there were procedures in place to deal with that situation.
Cllr Seaborne felt that the findings on page 12 of the report referring to data collection had not given a definitive assurance that this could not happen in another area of Waverley’s operations. He therefore asked that the committee request that Internal Audit draw up a report showing all aspects of operations that could be exposed or Heads of Service to give assurance that the lessons have been captured. He also raised the issue of misuse of expenses set out in the report. Some officers regularly visit sites and he asked what checks were in place to ensure expenses are claimed appropriately.
ACTION: Councillors asked for assurance be given that this was being addressed.
Graeme Clark advised that the Audit Plan reports coming up later in the meeting included information or data provided to other organisations. Expenses claims were looked at every 2 years.
The Audit Committee considered and endorsed the strengthened governance arrangements in relation to Air Quality.