Now that the Report has finally been published it is probably best to give it some quiet consideration before passing any detailed comments but some initial comments are justified. What has come as something of a surprise is just how critical the External Auditor has been of the old Somerton Town Council (aka the Keenan/Canvin administration) given that the External Auditor is implicated in the problems in Somerton.
The problems that the External Auditor has described did not arise overnight but were part of the established culture of Somerton Town Council going back for some years. The External Auditor refers to this long established culture when referring to the Council's purchase of the Doctor's Surgery building in 2002. The External Auditor refers to the fact that the building was purchased as the site for a 'community hall' but the proposal was never enacted. Why was this not queried at the time? Equally, the documents surrounding the purchase of the surgery and also the purchase of the land at Etsome Terrace were, in my own view, misleading yet they were never questioned. Why not?
The fact is that Somerton Town Council was a delinquent Council and had been so for many years. The fact is that Councillors, and the Clerk (the Responsible Officer) accepted what went on and didn't either care to question or were fearful of questioning. Either way, no adverse comment was made.
The Council's Auditor for many years, Mr A J Bullen (also auditor for a number of other town and parish councils), raised no questions about how the Council administered its affairs and regularly signed-off the Council's accounts. I am sure that Mr Bullen would say that he did exactly what he was employed to do and that may well be the case. But is shows just how easy it is for a delinquent Council to circumvent control and regulation.
Then there is the External Auditor who looked over the accounts every year and duly signed them off. I am quite sure that the External Auditor will say that they did exactly what they were employed to do and that may well be the case. But, again, it shows just how easy it is for a delinquent Council to circumvent control and regulation.
And when someone comes along to raise concerns, as I did in 2009, its all too late. Previous year's accounts have been signed-off and can't be opened. How very convenient, for everyone involved, excepting, of course, the taxpayer.
Till next time, I'm still Niall Connolly