Hart’s Audit Committee met earlier this month. The meeting covered the work going on to try to fix the project management weaknesses revealed by the Shapley Heath debacle. To recap, the head of Corporate Services had been tasked to ensure that all projects:
- have a clear and accountable governance framework of authority that it is accountable to the sponsoring body;
are always open to wider scrutiny in accordance with the Council’s Constitution;
- have clear budgetary controls that are regularly monitored and accurately reported to the sponsoring body to include the full identification of financial risks;
- ensure that all contract procedure rules, and contract management arrangements are followed; and
- give assurance over the risk management framework including governance and transparency.
The interim S151 Officer only gave a verbal update, but did present some slides. The slides have not been included in the draft minutes, however, we did manage to capture them from the video of the meeting. Hilariously, the S151 officer didn’t even understand one of her own slides because she couldn’t explain what IIA documentation was. We don’t know either, other than guessing it’s something to do with initiating internal audit.
The slides were somewhat glossed over in the meeting, but they did show some worrying trends. The projects prior to November 2021 are in a much worse shape than current ones. This shows some improvement, but still performance is weak.
Corporate Services and Joint Waste Projects
None of the Corporate Services projects prior to November 2021 had Project Initiation Documents (PID) and one of them didn’t have appropriate financial documentation. Four of the six recent projects don’t have financial documentation which makes a mockery of the objective of “clear budgetary controls that are regularly monitored”. None of the Joint Waste projects had anything other than a Risk Register. This is odd because if there’s no PID, then the what, why, who and when of the project has not been defined or agreed. The post-November 2021 Capita Review project apparently has no documentation at all. It is clear from this that no lessons have been learned at all.
Place and Infrastructure Projects
None of the pre-November 2021 projects had any financial management documentation or IIA and some didn’t have a risk register. The later projects are in much better shape. However, the recent Traffic Management project has no documentation at all. Interestingly, the brownfield capacity study announced late last year doesn’t even appear on the list.
Community, Countryside and Green Grid Project Management Weaknesses
These projects are a complete mess. None of the pre-November 2021 have a PID or financial documentation. The later Fleet Pond enhancement project has no documentation at all. The budget for this year is nearly £500K. So, nearly half a million being spent with no PID, no Risk Register and no financial documentation.
Climate Change Project Management Weaknesses
Another mess; none of the Climate Change projects have any documentation at all.
What this tells us is that the Shapley Heath debacle wasn’t some sort of one-off rogue project. It is clear there’s an endemic problem with a lack of basic project management and financial control. Most of the projects prior to November-2021 had major deficiencies in project controls. Many of the post-November 2021 projects also show significant weaknesses. PIDs are fundamental to project management because they describe the what, why, who and when of projects. Omitting the financial controls is simply scandalous. This is especially the case when the Shapley Heath project was heavily criticised for lack of financial controls. Note also that nowhere was there any analysis of the quality of the documents that were produced. It’s all very well ticking the box saying a document has been written, but if it’s of poor quality it is probably worse than useless.
Here is the video of the relevant part of the meeting.