Amateur auditors claim widespread financial mismanagement at Lambeth

7 Jul 17

A group of local activists has claimed to unearth evidence of large-scale financial mismanagement at the London Borough of Lambeth.

Lambeth Peoples’ Audit comprised 10 residents who combed through the borough's accounts for 2015-16 looking also at contracts, invoices and correspondence.

It said its findings included that the council had overpaid builders for work on council estates, including one case where contractors were paid more than double the number of repairs performed and another in which an average of £4,000 was paid for kitchen replacements priced under ‘decent homes’ contracts at £2-3,000.

The group also said it had evidence of possible price fixing in a case where all four tenders on a £1.3m project bid within 7% of each other.

Lambeth sold three pieces of land to private developer Pocket Living at a discount of at least £1m without any competitive tender, the group claimed.

Other cases the group uncovered included the cost of town hall refurbishment having risen from £50m to £104m and secrecy over a deal in which Greenwich Leisure took over two libraries.

It also said there was lack of adequate spending controls in the council, examples of which include more than £8m of invoices for housing repairs not available to Lambeth’s finance department and “industrial scale” disregard of rules on competitive tendering.

Lambeth Peoples' Audit coordinator Simon Morrow, said: “We have unearthed evidence of extensive financial mismanagement that suggests millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is being wasted.

“Lack of governance within Lambeth council appears to be systemic.”

Morrow said the amateur auditors recognised the impact of government cuts on councils but “from our own experiences of dealing with Lambeth council we knew that was not the whole story”.

He said Lambeth described itself as a ‘co-operative council’, but had refused the group’s offer of help to review contracts and find ways to save money.

A Lambeth spokesman said: “The council’s statement of accounts for 2015-16 were fully signed off by an independent external auditor.

“The external auditor has taken into account all of the issues raised in the ‘Peoples’ Audit’ and did not uphold any of the objections to the accounts.”

 

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