Still no need for ex­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, boss in­sists


THE chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cheshire East has said again there is no need for an ex­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into con­tracts is­sued to Michael Jones’s phys­io­ther­a­pist.

Mike Suarez told a meet­ing of the coun­cil that the coun­cil’s own in­ter­nal au­dit team would con­tinue to look into three con­tracts worth up to £156,000 is­sued to Core Fit with­out ten­der­ing.

He made the state­ments to coun­cil­lors at a meet­ing of the Au­dit and Gov­er­nance Com­mit­tee this week.

He first stated last month there was no need for an ex­ter­nal in­quiry.

Since then there have been mount­ing calls for one from a num­ber of fig­ures in­clud­ing Cheshire East mayor Hilda Gad­dum.

Con­ser­va­tive MP Nigel Evans stated at the week­end he thinks there should be an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But Mr Suarez said the in­ter­nal au­di­tors were best placed to es­tab­lish the facts. He said: “In ac­cor­dance with pro­fes­sional stan­dards, I have dis­cussed key is­sues with the In­ter­nal Au­di­tors dur­ing the course of the au­dit and al­though op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­prove­ment aris­ing from poor prac­tice have been iden­ti­fied, work to date has not un­cov­ered any ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing that an out­side agency would have a le­git­i­mate in­ter­est in in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

“Based on this I have so far con­cluded no ex­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is re­quired into the award­ing of the Core Fit con­tracts. Should this sit­u­a­tion change, then I will take what­ever ac­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lor An­drew Kolker told the meet­ing that the coun­cil should not re­sist an ex­ter- nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion if nec­es­sary. He said: “I fear the rep­u­ta­tion of the coun­cil has been un­der­mined. I’m happy to leave in­ter­nal au­dit to do its job but if the re­sult is for an ex­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion I wouldn’t like to see that avoided.

“We have to be seen to be open and hon­est in all mat­ters re­lat­ing to this.”

The meet­ing heard from Jon Roberts of the ex­ter­nal au­di­tors Grant Thorn­ton who con­firmed the Core Fit con­tracts had de­layed them in sign­ing off this year’s au­dit.

He said: “We held the cer­tifi­cate open be­cause var­i­ous mat­ters had come to light re­lated to Core Fit.

“I was sat­is­fied that it didn’t re­quire me to ex­er­cise my pow­ers but we’re look­ing to in­ter­nal au­dit to com­plete its pro­cure­ment re­view.

“The role of ex­ter­nal au­dit is not to get in­volved in mat­ters which the coun­cil is placed to deal with.”

●● Cheshire East chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Suarez

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