Public Sector – Council losses pinned on staff

Two senior accountants at Middlesbrough Borough Council have kept their jobs despite being found responsible for the authority losing #557,000 in housing subsidy.

Management consultants from Price Waterhouse who carried out an independent investigation, blamed human error for the loss during the current financial year. The errors, made by senior staff who were qualified accountants, were made when finalising Middlesbrough’s housing revenue account.

The unnamed officers concerned failed to claim subsidies for leasing equipment hired in the last financial year, which led to less government cash being awarded for the current year.

A spokesman for the council said: ‘A disciplinary investigation has been held, and action short of dismissal has been taken against the officers involved. This is the end of the matter.’

The chief executive’s report said: ‘The peculiar circumstances of local government re-organisation may have meant that it was not always possible to apply proper handover procedures as effectively as would be in normal circumstances, when staff changes are relatively infrequent.’

He also found that the use of internal audit staff as ‘trouble-shooters’, helping the departmental managers during the handover period had affected the usual planned audit service.

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