Amid calls for straight talking honest politics, concerns have already been raised about why it took so long for the problems at Cheshire East Council to be investigated.
The Core Fit issue was not even on the agenda of the Audit & Governance Committee meeting in December, but the issue was raised by Cllr Sam Corcoran. The Audit Committee agreed to call for a report from internal audit to be presented as soon as possible directly to the Audit Committee (and not solely to the Chief Executive).
Speaking at the Council meeting in December about a report from the Audit Committee, Councillor Sam Corcoran, said,
“The famous Kingston Cotton Mills legal case of 1896 established the principle that the auditor is not bound to be a detective. The auditor is a watchdog, but not a bloodhound.
But a watchdog is expected to bark
Worthy though the report before us today is, the remarkable part is what is NOT here.
There is no mention of Core Fit. You may think that this is because the report is for 2014/15 and the problems are in 2015/16, but the £115,000 contract with Core Fit was signed in March 2015 and the first contract started in 2014.
After events at a waste site just south of Macclesfield whose name we can’t mention, delegated decisions and waiver notices were under scrutiny. The Audit Committee looked at waivers in March 2014 and we were not entirely happy. The minutes show “Members queried whether the report was fulfilling the requirements of Contract Procedure Rule E11 which stated that ‘non-compliance’ instances would be reported to the
Committee”. We looked again in November 2014 and received re-assurances.
My point is this: The watchdog was there. It was looking in the right direction. But it didn’t bark.
To spell it out. You can have the best procedures in the world; you can have all the rules you want, but if the rules aren’t being followed then it does no good.
If the culture of the organisation regards rules as things that get in the way then changing the rules is not going to help.”
The deeply troubling aspect of the Core Fit saga is that the watchdogs didn’t bark