‘Potentially improper conduct’ identified in probe into city council

An external report into Liverpool Council that assessed millions of pieces of information identified “strong inference of potentially improper conduct involving senior management and elected officials.”

City council documents have revealed in part findings from a wide-ranging investigation by a Bristol-based law firm into potential misconduct within the Cunard Building.

The probe was launched at the behest of Liverpool Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton, who said they could not sign off on historic accounts until it was completed.

Initially commissioned in July 2022, the report has been kept under wraps with only a handful of officials and councillors able to view it. Liverpool Council said it was “aware of matters identified” by the firm during its work.

More than two million emails were investigated as part of the scope into city records, to establish whether there is any evidence of “improper influence in the council’s decision making arising from the actions of former Mayor Joe Anderson and former senior officers.”

Upon the investigation being launched, Grant Thornton said the books would not be signed off at the Cunard Building until it knew whether problems that have dogged the authority were limited to “a particular area in the council or whether the issues are more pervasive.”

Two police investigations, one of which concerns former officers and one of which concerns current officers, remain ongoing. The Best Value inspection by Max Caller, published in March 2021, highlighted a whole suite of governance concerns and weaknesses.

It is thought the report by TLT identified a number of areas uncovered in the first inspection almost three years ago.

The Grant Thornton report, to be debated during the city’s audit committee next week, said, “Our forensics expert noted that whilst TLT found no other instances from the other departments which comprise evidence that there has been any other breach of the Bribery Act, Fraud Act, or other statutory or common-law criminal offences, the report does state that there is a strong inference of potentially improper conduct involving senior management and elected officials in respect of specified projects.

“As a result of the ongoing police investigations, management are unable to quantify the potential impact of those investigations on the financial statements.

“We consider that the ongoing police investigation limits our ability to conclude on the council’s compliance with laws and regulations.”

The auditors said the uncertainty of the impact of the latter police investigation limits its ability to provide an opinion on the council’s financial statements. As a result, it will not be formally concluding its 2019/20 audit until it has been able to “properly consider the implications of the ongoing police investigations on our audit of the council in previous years.”

A Liverpool Council spokesperson said, “The council was already aware of matters identified by TLT during the course of their work. As they may be subject to ongoing police investigation, any further details are confidential.”


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