Grant Thornton has defended its audit work on Liverpool Council after a government report found the council was not providing best value for money to council taxpayers.
A recent report into Liverpool Council found a litany of failures, including around a “rotten culture” of dubious contracts and backroom bullying. Official records of the council were reportedly dumped in skips.
Grant Thornton is the council’s auditor, and has not fully certified Liverpool Council’s accounts for five years due to police investigations involving the council.
It has however signed opinions on the accounts for those years, meaning Grant Thornton was satisfied the financial statements fairly presented the financial position of the council.
Speaking at a committee meeting last week, Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Makinson said Grant Thornton had dismissed concerns about the accounts made by opposition councillors, the Liverpool Echo first reported.
Makinson said: “The taxpayers of Liverpool have been paying £191,000 to Grant Thornton to provide assurances that the city’s accounts are in order.
“While you’ve not been able to to fully certify them … you have repeatedly provided value for money assurances and various concerns raised by opposition councillors have been rather dismissed by yourselves.”
In response, Grant Thornton director Andrew Smith reportedly said: “We are confident in the work we’ve done in those areas and I don’t believe there’s anything in the Best Value Report that lends itself to that type of fraud.
“There are very serious best value issues in there but there is a limit to what we can do around that in terms of the requirements of the value for money work.”
Smith said the challenger audit firm was not party to the details of the police investigation.
The director also said external auditors were reliant on internal management to flag issues in the accounts, which had not been done prior to the arrival of the council’s new chief executive Tony Reeves.
The council has been at the centre of corruption allegations. Nick Kavanagh, the council’s head of regeneration, was arrested 15 months ago, followed by the city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, and four other men.
The council has now been partially taken over by government commissioners.
Grant Thornton has been contacted for comment.