On the twentieth of January this year I wrote to the liberal Democrat chair of scrutiny Mr Philip Whitmarsh with concerns about Mendip District accountancy and financial processes that led to the grant aiding of the Bristol Arts Performing Academy.
My basic premise of the letter was to ascertains the methodology of the decision making process in the awarding of the £47,000 to BAPA and the £16660 that appeared in the 2008 accounts of BAPA from Mendip District Council.
Tonight the Scrutiny Committee met to consider an investigation undertaken by members of the Scrutiny Panel http://www.mendip.gov.uk/Documents/MinutesAndReports/Meetings%202011/Scrutiny/21.03.11/Item%2013%20Final%20Report%20-%20Task%20and%20Finish%20Group%20Review%20of%20Grants%20Paid%20to%20the%20Bristol%20Academy%20of%20Performing%20Arts.doc
My concerns are after the Audit Commissions criticisms of Mendip Council twelve months ago concerning managing the finances.
I felt we cannot continue with the discontent about the BAPA grants, that's why I asked Mendip for the scrutiny committee to conduct an investigation into the award of these grants, this so the full facts are exposed for public inspection and restore public confidence in Mendip’s use of s106 monies.
My main concerns are about the diligence process, Will Dunscombe spoke at Scrutiny this evening, he was frustrated that most of his questions simply was not addressed, he concluded that how could you expect Lib Dem and Conservative members to criticise their colleagues and demanded a independent inquiry.
From what I heard the Scrutiny Committee simply misunderstood what they were investigating!
They were not debating the pros and cons of BAPA, the questions were about risk assessing grants against benefit, about how decisions were made against the information at councillors disposal.
The District Council was asked to do due diligence on BAPA before allocating £20,000 additional funding after already giving £27,000 by the Central Mendip Community Partnership. I had asked when this due diligence was conducted and by whom. Mendip say they did not pay BAPA £16660, yet how could they have missed this amount if they had looked at the 2007/08 accounts of BAPA? Should this have raised a query if they hadn't paid this?
It was clear by 2008/09 that £47,000 was not enough money to keep the BAPA solvent, and a much bigger grant would be required, I wanted to see the minutes of the due diligence meeting, whom was there and where these minutes are reported to.
I had asked if the successor company to BAPA the Musical Theatre Company had asked for a grant from Mendip Council, and if they had how this was processed by the Council.
The Scrutiny Board did recommend changes to the new Councils constitution on emergency grants, yet were no specific on what these measures were.
Sadly scrutiny could have investigated, produced a forensic report, a proper audit trail instead they produced a report that did not answer the questions asked of it, a damp squib of a report and a report that shows real change is needed at Mendip.