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