Before he was interrupted by the borough solicitor at the meeting of Swindon Borough Council cabinet just over a week ago, Mr Bluh tried to say — though it’s not made it into the minutes of the meeting — that the only thing that external auditors were looking at in relation to the council’s wi-fi deal was ‘value for money’ and that they were not investigating any issues of process. What it does record of in the minutes of the meeting is Mr Bluh’s view of what is important in this issue.
He did not believe it was necessary to await the outcome of the Audit Committee review that was to look at the best value aspect of the loan agreement for the project.
Let’s look at the Audit Commission’s ‘key lines of enquiry’ when considering value for money.
The use of resources assessment considers how well organisations are managing and using their resources to deliver value for money and better and sustainable outcomes for local people. The assessment comprises three themes that focus on:
- sound and strategic financial management;
- strategic commissioning and good governance; and
- the management of natural resources, assets and people.
Sound financial management and good governance: I’d certainly welcome a thorough examination of those for this wifi deal. Perhaps we could start with an in-depth examination of the governance process and how a director of Swindon Borough Council came to be a director of a company before giving advice to Mr Bluh that the council should invest in that company.
Another noticeable omission from the meeting minutes is Mr Patel’s denial that he was a director of Digital City (UK) Ltd. What it does say is that an appointment to the company’s board will be made, but says nothing about the situation at that time.
The Cabinet were advised that under the loan arrangements, the Group Director, Business Transformation would represent the Council at meetings of the Board of Digital City (UK) Limited and that he received no remuneration from the company. It was confirmed that the Special Committee was likely to be asked to make an appointment to serve on the Board in the near future.
Meeting minutes have rarely been so misleading.