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Further Auditor-General Impotence

Just to cap off a year of proven Auditor-General impotence, if not incompetence, comes this reply to my query regarding what must consitute the unique appointment of the TCDC Chief Finance Officer to the TCDC Audit Committee.

Clearly my query raised some concerns within the AG Office, but the response fails to come come to grips with the principle involved, and falls back on what amounts to a legislative deficiency as an excuse for inaction.

Here is my email to the AG on 12 December:

I would like to draw your attention to the following

Could you please advise the appropriateness of a member of staff – in this case – the Chief Financial Officer, being a member of the Council Audit Committee.

This appointment appears to have been made by Mayor Leach following the last election, but there is no evidence of it having been ratified by Council.

I am more concerned at the presence on the Committee of the staff member over whose work the Committee is expected to exercise oversight.

That is my understanding of the primary responsibility of that Committee.

I would appreciate your advice on this matter as to whether my understanding is correct or otherwise. .


Bill Barclay  

Here is the reply on 24 December:

Dear Mr Barclay

You have concerns about the Thames-Coromandel District Council (the Council) apparently having its Chief Financial Officer (CFO) as a member of its audit committee.

There are no statutory requirements governing the membership of audit committees. However, you may find our good practice guide Audit committees in the public sector of interest:

We suggest you discuss your concerns directly with the Council.


Jude Hutton
Inquiries Co-ordinator

Here is an extract from the 'Good Practice' section of the document quoted above:

We acknowledge that many government departments include internal managers as audit committee members. This can provide the independent members with further insight into the workings of the department. However, the potential disadvantages are:

  • reduced objectivity in the audit committee as a whole;
  • the member feeling unable to comment freely on areas managed by their colleagues; and
  • other members of management who are not on the audit committee feeling disenfranchised.

Each government department should consider the merits or otherwise of inviting managers to attend the audit committee meetings rather than having management representation on the audit committee.

I am left utterly bemused by the lack of any concern at this apparent breach of the most basic and fundamental rules of good governance. We really do live in 'cloud cuckoo land' when it comes to oversight of Local Government in this country. The quote above relates principally to Government Departments, but surely the sugestion under 3.5 is even more relevant in the circumstances surrounding local government governance. As usual, our people think they know best, and hence Mr Baker's sudden appearance on this Committee.

As for me "discussing my concerns directly with the Council" - in the circumstances, that would simply invite the usual contempt that is dealt to criticism of any kind - particularly from this quarter.

I will bring it to the attention of Scott Simpson in the hope that he may see fit to raise the issue with the Minister.

I just don't know what other avenue is open.




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