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As a parish councillor, am I entitled to see the Internal Auditor's Report?

0 votes
I am a parish councillor of some 18 months standing.  About 3 weeks ago I requested to see copies of the Internal Auditor's Reports for the last two years and I have subsequently repeated the request as nothing has been forthcoming.  I detect great reluctance in providing these reports.  Am I legally entitled to see them?  And, if they are not forthcoming, any suggestions as to what I should do?
asked by (180 points)

5 Answers

0 votes
Who have you asked?

Bear in mind (as mad as it might seem) an individual councillor can’t direct the clerks work so if they claim it’s causing additional work they have a gold plated excuse
Not uncommon for a clerk to raise a complaint against a councillor if they feel a councillor is ‘making too much work’ for them.
You could make it ‘corporate’ rather than personal by putting the request via the PC or you could FoI.
Why does it always seem so difficult to get info out of public offices.
answered by (3.9k points)
The residents are forced to pay a precept so they are allowed to elect Councillors to represent their interests but the staff whose wages are paid by the residents can basically send you to Coventry if they are allowed to by whoever manages them

It seems unbelievable but it’s a fact as it’s happened to me and basically you have no more right to information or help than anyone else

In my case it appears they believe even the FOI doesn’t apply
This doesn’t happen most of the time and in most jParishes the Councillors and staff work together with mutual respect to serve their community

If push comes to shove you have no choice but to use the FOI
0 votes
As an elected councillor you are responsible (with other councillors) for the correct use and accountability of tax payers monies. This means that you must have access to all documentation regarding budgets, precept calculations and accounts produced on behalf of the council. This without doubt must include auditors reports ( both internal and external) and monthly accountability of balances and budget control. This is all part of the clerk( assuming RFO) duties to supply such information to councillors.

The council appoints the auditors not the clerk and as such the clerk has no power to with hold such information requests from an elected representative. The use of FOI from  within a council is a silly road to go down. Surely a qualified clerk must be adhering to the requirements of their qualification?
answered by (8.2k points)
The use of FOI from within a council is a silly road to go down.

Absolutely ridiculous, outrageous and unnecessary actually.
BUT - if the request has been made, and the information has not been provided, it IS an option which should be the cause of exceptional embarrassment to the entire council and its staff.

It's all very well saying what "should" happen - it appears from the original question that what "should" happen ISN'T happening.

What is it they say about the definition of insanity?  Repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

There is also a note from the originator of the question which states that the subject PC "don't believe FoI applies to them."

It appears that there are deep rooted systemic problems within that PC which any ½ decent auditor should be highlighting anyway.  What's the betting they are not...
0 votes
Does you Council not have an agenda item to discuss the Internal Auditor (May ish) and then External Auditor reports (september ish) as they become available in the year.

My internal auditor flags it up as a failing in governance if the Internal auditor report is not discussed in open Council as part of the agenda.

Seems Crazy that its not shared with the Council who have paid for it and to pick up someone else point - appointed the auditor - its their chance once  a year to get some PR. After all the Internal audit report usually covers area for improvement which is important to all good councils - continuous improvement !!
answered by (1.4k points)
+1 vote
I suggest that you write to the internal auditor and inform him/her that the council may be unable to provide a positive response to question 7 on the Annual Governance Statement, as there is nothing in the minutes to indicate that the council has considered last year's internal audit report and you are not aware of its contents. Question 7 requires the council to confirm that "We took appropriate action on all matters raised in reports from internal and external audit." The guidance note defines this as "Yes’ means that this authority responded to matters brought to its attention by internal and external audit." It is for the council to determine how to respond to such matters and this cannot be delegated to chair or clerk. If you have a finance committee, their deliberations on this matter must be minuted and either approved or noted by the council, depending upon their terms of reference.

Whilst writing, ask the internal auditor to provide you with a copy of their report. I'm sure they'll be pleased to do so. My IA formally addresses his reponse "To the members of the Council" for the avoidance of doubt.
answered by (31.1k points)
Whilst this might get the report into the hands of the councillor, it certainly wouldn't resolve the issue which is stated as being a perception of "great reluctance" on the part of (we don't know who yet) to provide the report as a matter of routine.

So the issue is not the report in the single instance.  The issue is the reluctance to make information available.

To suggest that the individual approaches the IA is to treat the symptom rather than the cause.

The IA may apply professional fees for sourcing and providing an additional copy of the report (that would be reasonable - but who pays?  The council or the individual asking for the report?) If it is the individual asking for the report (acting as an individual since they are a councillor NOT the council)  would the IA actually release it to a private individual where intellectual property, client confidentiality and copyright issues may apply.
Your reply above Dave is probably from a clerk's perspective - I'm not sure it applies to what would be a private individual (albeit a councillor) approaching the IA on a private basis.

Interested to hear your thoughts....
One of the many possible explanations for this behaviour is that the report might be critical of the clerk and somebody might be shielding him/her from the criticism. It's very unlikely that an IA would charge the council for sending an email, for two reasons. Firstly, they would want their report to be available to all. Secondly, if they add further charges, they run the risk of being replaced by another IA.

The role of the IA is not just to work for the council for a day or two after the end of the financial year. They are appointed to serve for the whole year and can be involved whenever required to support the work of the council.

This is a council that appears to have lost its way, but this may not be a grand conspiracy. My starting point is always to point out procedural errors in the hope that they may be rectified.
There is clearly a minority of rogue Parish Councils who just ignore best practice and there’s no one to stop them
As I’ve said before the thought of devolving more powers to them is completely irresponsible
That’s not to say there are many more good councils
That’s it?

Councillor prevented from accessing essential information because it might be critical or highlight professional inadequacies of an employee?

In a world where that is in any way considered ‘normal’ or ‘appropriate’ there is no chance of ever getting this mess straightened out.
Nobody said it was either normal or appropriate. In small communities, the clerk is often a popular friend and neighbour to many. Protecting them might be a misguided act of compassion.

The question relates to access to the internal auditor's report. It doesn't mention any other documents or suggest a wider conspiracy to withhold information from members of the council.

Any mess can be straightened out with calm, honest dialogue. If you don't believe me, read Momentum: The Struggle for Peace, Politics and the People.
The question does not specifically mention a wider reluctance to make other documents available - but it is a reasonable assumption to make since the 'reluctance' is highlighted.
It is possible that it is specific to this single issue of IA reports, but more likely (IMHO) to be indicative of a mindset.
Only way to know for sure would be for Julietecho to ask for something else and see if it was readily forthcoming.

Explanation v normalisation - discuss.

Appreciate the book recommend - always welcome.  I'll pass on that one though.  Maybe it's in the title "Momentum" - that's not a group I would have any desire to study, or maybe it is a personal disinterest in taking any lessons in tolerance from an organisation whose members are so intolerant as to require members of their own party and members of the media to require security staff at a their own party conference.  I'll take the hit on that one.
0 votes
Yes you are entitled to see it without submitting an FOI request and any failure to provide it should be reported to the external auditor and the principal authority monitoring officer.  E mail the clerk and demand it within 2 working days and let him/her know that you will instigate the actions above if it isn't supplied.
answered by (21.3k points)
Many thanks for all the answers / comments in response to my question.  I'm reassured that my expectation of councillors being entitled to see internal audit reports was valid.   
As it happens, I have now received scans of the reports and I was surprised that each report comprises only a list of "tick box" questions (all of the boxes are ticked/signed) with no element of comment.  Is this typical?  
It depends how rigorously the auditor carries out the audit.  It may be a frequent occurrence but that does not mean it is acceptable or can be relied on.
The minimum requirement is the tick boxes on the official form. Many internal auditors will also write a letter setting out issues they have encountered during the process. This provides the council with an opportunity for improvement on minor issues that do not affect the auditor's ability to sign the form. Such a letter would not be submitted to the external auditor, unless the internal auditor specifically requests this, but if received by the council, it should be an agenda item at a meeting in order that the council may determine what steps to take to rectify their shortcomings.

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