In April 2017 we raised an objection under the Audit Act 2014, s27 to the incinerator contract with UBB. This is a part of law that allows local citizens to object to matters in the accounts including Value for Money. It provides a mechanism to ensure independent accountability that of the County Council’s financial affairs in the public interest.
The County’s auditor, Grant Thornton is required to investigate this objection in a ‘quasi judicial’ role which is legally independent of their regular audit function. Grant Thornton has yet to issue a final report. As this matter is still outstanding the Counties County Council’s accounts have carried a qualification on Value for Money grounds since this time, which means the last four years of Council Accounts have been issued with this qualification.
Despite this the Council continues to claim that the incinerator will save the County £100m, and the auditors have not ensured this erroneous claim is removed from audited accounts. In fact the cost of waste disposal to the County has increased by £8.5m (over 50%) as a direct consequence of the contract.
In November 2018 Grant Thornton issued their second ‘draft provisional views’. This draft did not take into account the 2016 contract, but was based on the 2013 contract. We now know that the 2013 contract was for £450m, when in fact the operational contract signed in 2016 contract was for £613m, a 36% increase. However Grant Thornton’s second draft report said (incredibly) that this was not material to their consideration on value for money of the contract so refused to share details of the new contract. They have since accepted that the 2016 contract is material to their determination.
Our barrister Duncan Sinclair wrote a strongly worded note in January 2019 (see here)
Following our partially successful High Court Challenge (see press release here) Grant Thornton issued a third ‘draft provisional view’ in December 2020, giving ourselves and GCC 5 weeks to respond.
This draft provisional view included a conclusion from the auditor that in his draft provisional view he would issue a formal “Report in the Public Interest”. This was because the 2016 contract had been awarded without a proper fair tender process in breach of procurement regulations. This is a very significant conclusion with far reaching ramifications. See our press release here
Following submission of our response we were told that GCC had been granted a three week extension.
We submitted a further response to the revised deadline which you can find here