Thank you for your emails dated 26 and 27 August 2006 and your letter and CD dated 8 September 2006.
Having carefully reviewed the content of your emails I do not consider that they provide me with any new or substantive evidence to support the allegations you have made against Mr Watkinson. I can only therefore confirm the conclusions that I have drawn in my letter of 24 August 2006, specifically that Mr Watkinson has not, in any way, behaved inappropriately in his role as appointed auditor.
The responsibilities of the Commission and its appointed auditors were pointed out to you in a telephone conversation we had on 17 August and reaffirmed in my email on 24 August. Under The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998 the Audit Commission and its appointed auditors are “prescribed persons” for disclosures relating to “the proper conduct of public business, value for money, fraud and corruption in local government and health service bodies”.
The obligation of the Commission and its appointed auditors to a whistleblower under PIDA is confined to the receipt of disclosures. PIDA neither requires nor empowers the Commission or its appointed auditors to carry out an investigation into the subject matter of any disclosure made or to report the results of any investigation undertaken. However, the Commission and its appointed auditors will consider any information received as a result of a disclosure and determine what action, if any, to take in the context of their existing statutory and professional powers and duties.
Neither the Commission nor its appointed auditors have powers to discipline local authority officers or are able to bring criminal prosecutions against such individuals. Disciplinary action can only be taken by management and/or any relevant professional bodies.
In your email of 26 August 2006 you have asked that I send you a copy of the “city council’s report into these allegations”. Neither I, nor the Commission, hold such information, nor am I in a position to confirm whether a “report”, as such, exists. I confirm again that the allegations into impropriety at Liverpool City Council have been the subject of internal investigation and review by the City Council. Mr Watkinson, the District Auditor, will take into account the allegations that have been made, and the Council’s review of these allegations, in his ongoing audit of the City Council. To the extent that an appointed auditor obtains information in the course of his audit, this will be subject to section 49 of The Audit Commission Act 1998. Section 49 prevents disclosure unless one of the specific statutory exceptions are satisfied; this will be a matter for Mr Watkinson to determine. As the audit is ongoing Mr Watkinson will continue to consider any information that you send and take this into account during the course of his audit.
In terms of continuing to investigate the complaint you have raised, there must be clear evidence that this would serve a useful purpose, having particular regard to the cost to public funds. In particular, a complaint will not be examined where:
· it repeats in substance a complaint previously dealt with under the complaints procedure;
· it provides no new evidence; and
· it is believed that no benefit will be obtained from continuing to examine the complaint.
I consider that your concerns have now been thoroughly investigated by the Commission and a detailed response sent to you. Your emails have not provided me with any evidence to support your allegations. Unless you are able to properly verify your allegations I will have no option but to consider this matter closed. I am happy to receive any information that you have regarding Liverpool City Council which I will forward to Mr Watkinson.