Opportunity to misuse “tarmac” is identified by internal auditor

By Elgan Hearn   |   Local democracy reporter   |
Monday 8th August 2022 11:00 am
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Matt Perry
Matt Perry - Powys County Council - Head of Highways Transport and Recycling (HTR )

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

At a meeting of the council’s Governance and Audit committee on Friday, July 29, members were given a briefing by SWAP the council’s internal auditors on a number of investigations they had held 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.”

At the meeting 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 at the plant

The report explains that a process known as “anywhere needed” means that there is an expectation that excess tarmac 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 tarmac 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 legitmate locations to use any excess tarmac should be identified from inspection processes.

They also said that “abnormal” tarmac 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 tarmac 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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