As a result of the Graham Brown affair, which has led to a criminal investigation, the South West Audit Partnership (SWAP), was asked to check that East Devon District Council has effective safeguards in place to avoid a repeat of such scandals. The report produced by SWAP (of which EDDC is a partner), finds the repeat risk is ‘low’.
But councillors and others who have read it in detail, are astonished by its shallowness. Questions asked by the public at the Audit and Governance Committee (Knowle, November 14th) point to some of the report’s weaknesses. This was the opening question, from Peter Whitfield, of Save Our Sidmouth:
‘Chairman, Members, It is often said that the most essential attribute of an auditor is a curious and enquiring mind. You will be aware that much concern has been expressed both by members of the public and by some of your own fellow councillors about the lack of thoroughness of the recent SWAP report on EDDC’s governance. The consensus seems to be that either the auditors were given a very narrow remit in their terms of reference (they only report on four areas of potential risk) or that they were very superficial in their coverage of the totality of this council’s business in the year under review, in which case the council should ask them for another and more thorough visit.
Will you please tell us who set the terms of reference for this audit and exactly what these particular ones said?’
The answer given was that the SWAP team conferred with EDDC senior officers (whose effectiveness was of course being examined) for the terms of reference.
Due to the implications of this SWAP report,and the grave circumstances from which it arose, further questions and discussion will continue on our website.