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At last, Normandy PC Reveals Failures in Financial, Governance and Public Rights

Published on: 3 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 12 Jul, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Normandy Parish Council has finally published their 2019/20 accounts and governance statement on their website (September 29) after a campaign by The Dragon highlighted their initial failure to fulfil statutory duties on transparency.

Included is a conclusive internal audit report which showed the council derelict in four of the 10 areas inspected, including failing to show they had “correctly provided for the exercise of public rights”.

The council dismissed this as “a couple paperwork errors” but refused a full explanation, citing “potential confidentiality” issues.

Their disclosures followed reports in The Dragon. See Frustrated Residents Left in the Dark Over the Information Battle of Normandy and Normandy PC Clerk Claims Covid Rules Block Check of Financial Records.

Normandy PC Internal Audit 2019 – 2020 showing four out of ten areas inspected were failed by the auditor.

Normandy PC Internal Audit 2019/20 shows four failures in 10 areas inspected. Strangely, the audit was published under announcements, rather than under Financial Controls & Audit in the Governance section.

The auditor, Michael Bain of Maxwell and Co of Farnham, had refused to sign off on several areas including:

“Authority had complied with its financial regulations…”;

“Salaries to employees and allowances were paid in accordance with the authorities approvals…”;

“Asset and investment registers were complete and accurate and properly maintained”; and

“The authority… had correctly provided for the exercise of public rights in accordance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations”.

Cllr Alan Cheesman

Cllr Alan Cheesman, chair of Normandy Parish Council, had said: “We are a transparent parish council as is required by law.”

There was no explanatory “note to state the implications and actions being taken to address any weakness in control identified”, as required by official guidelines.

One note from the council attached to the published report said: “We would not normally put this on our website until we have received the external audit. There were a couple of paperwork errors, due to having a new employee, which we have now rectified.”

This is contrary to the regulations which require the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) is published on the authority’s website to enable residents to inspect it and make representations to the auditor.

Dragon reporters finally met the chairman, Cllr Alan Cheesman, his wife, Cllr Val Cheesman and the parish clerk, Leslie Clarke, an 86-year-old former Army officer, outside Mr Clarke’s house in Normandy on Thursday, October 1.

In an amicable and socially distanced arrangement, Mr Cheesman and Mr Clarke stayed in the clerk’s office while Mrs Cheesman relayed questions, answers and documents to Dragon reporters. With the exception of explanations to the audit failures, all documents requested were provided.

They included the minutes of council meeting of August 26. The minutes, still not published on the website, said: “The Chairman to speak to the Asst Clerk to warn him regarding his accuracy etc in relation to the accounts.”

See also: Dismissal of Normandy’s Former Assistant Parish Clerk Rescinded

Also noted was: “The comments drafted in relation to the 4 “No” comments of the [Internal Audit] report be forwarded to the External Auditor.”

Another document provided was the Register of Assets. Again, contrary to regulations, the register is not on the website and has been a “failed” in the three Internal audits since 2017, showing the council had physical assets estimated at £294,964.

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