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Probe into county council asphalt misuse continues

 
Created on 05/08/2022 @ 09:31

 

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

There was “nothing stopping” Powys County Council’s Highways teams from over ordering asphalt to be used on private driveways, an internal audit report has said.

At a meeting of the council’s Governance and Audit committee, members were briefed by SWAP, the council’s internal auditors, on a number of investigations into the highways department.

SWAP assistant director, Ian Halstead, and his team of auditors were brought in by the Highways, Transport and Recycling head of service, Matt Perry, to look at a number of issues in the highways department following “concerns arising from an investigation”.

The council’s chief executive, Dr Caroline Turner, said: “Limited action has been possible so far for a combination of reasons including waiting for the report findings and secondly being careful not to intervene in the ongoing police investigations.”

The key findings of the internal audit report on highways stock and materials, said that the council are charged for extra material that is sent back to the plant.

The report explains that a process known as “anywhere needed” means that there is an expectation that excess asphalt is used close to where work has taken place.

If it is a large quantity, highways depot managers are asked about a location before the excess asphalt is laid.

The report said: “There is an opportunity for misuse to occur although there are purchasing forms in place, there is nothing stopping someone from over ordering and resurfacing a driveway close by.”

SWAP believed that legitimate locations to use any excess asphalt should be identified from inspection processes.

They also said that “abnormal” purchases can be “difficult to spot” due to the revenue costing structures used by the department.

SWAP said: “There needs to be greater visibility over the materials within the revenue costing structure to ensure that there is no abnormal transactions.

“Linking the purchases to the original specifications within the programme of works would help to ensure that no excess tarmac has been ordered.”

Internal auditors reported on a number of issues including:

  • how the highways vehicle fleet are treated,
  • whether staff claim for extra work hours fraudulently,
  • whether road resurfacing work is monitored properly
  • whether stock and materials are accounted for properly.

Allegations surfaced in the summer of 2020 that asphalt was being misused and that private driveways were being resurfaced using council material.

According to minutes published by Llangynog Community Council in the north of Powys, the issues were discussed at meetings in July and September 2020.

These concerns were then brought to the authority’s attention by the local county councillor, Cllr Bryn Davies, who was told they would be investigated.

This investigation is still ongoing.

 

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