AN INTERNAL audit has criticised the borough council and its process for awarding grants.
The main findings concluded that application forms for grants were inadequate, assessments were weak with little or no evidence, information on the council website was poor and inconsistent, and there was no process to ensure the legality of organisations.
When grant applications were submitted, the report also found that they were not assessed in a fair manner, and it was found that preferential treatment was given to organisations that have a long-standing relationship with the borough council.
Grants were previously handled by three specialised teams but after a shake-up at the council in 2012, the responsibility of awarding grants was given to the commissioning business unit.
The internal audit has provided a set of recommendations for the team including a review of the grants process, the requirement that the website should be updated and has recommended that organisations applying for funding need to return a complete application, and any incomplete applications should be rejected.
The commissioning business unit, which has taken control of the grants process, has also been told to carry out financial checks to verify organisations which apply for grants and to ensure that procedures for assessing, approving and managing grants and meetings with organisations should be documented. Groups that receive grants will also need to supply performance monitoring documents.
The audit, which assessed the period between October and December, was discussed by members of the audit, accounts and governance committee.
Councillor Paul Harvey said: “This report needs to be sent out to all the organisations involved. I read this report and I was quite shocked, very shocked, by what was being said here – there are some pretty fundamental failings. The problem is that there are voluntary groups which no longer have funding.”
He added: “There are community schools that no longer have a community function because we cut it off, and I think that’s disgraceful. These organisations are in their right to challenge the council now that it hasn’t been done on a fair playing ground.”
Head of commissioning Lisa Kirkman said in a report for the meeting: “I am confident that the imminent review of the system will address these recommendations fully and will provide a robust and transparent process moving forwards.”