Tender irregularities uncovered in Lambeth 'people's audit'

19 July 2017

A “people’s audit” has accused Lambeth Council in London of overpaying building contractors for work on council estates.

A team of “citizen auditors”, made up of financial professionals, scrutinised the annual accounts of the London Borough of Lambeth for 2015-16 during a 30-day window when accounts, contracts, invoices and correspondence relating to expenditure are open to the public. They said they found extensive evidence of financial mismanagement.

A report said that when the team checked a sample three blocks on the Wyvil Estate in Vauxhall, it found the council paid its contractors for more than twice the number of concrete repairs than were actually carried out.

And the council was paying an average £4,000 for kitchen replacements which, according to the council’s own records, should have cost between £2,000 and £3,000. The audit highlighted instances of contractors charging for repairs that had not been carried out.

The report alleged instances of possible price-fixing in building contracts, saying that in one instance all four tenderers on a £1.3m project made bids within 7% of each other.

In another, two of the tenderers had submitted identical prices for several items. Both of these circumstances were unheard of in the building industry, the audit claimed.

Over £8m of invoices for housing repairs were not available to the finance department, the report said.

The Labour-run council hit out at the audit as being politically motivated and run by Liberal Democrat and Green opponents on the BBC's Sunday Politics show.

But the People’s Audit denied it was motivated by partisan reasons and called on the council to answer the questions it had raised.

Lambeth Peoples’ Audit research coordinator Simon Morrow said: “We have unearthed evidence of extensive financial mismanagement that suggests millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being wasted.

“Lack of governance within Lambeth council appears to be systemic.

“While recognising the effect of central government cuts on local authorities, from our own experiences of dealing with Lambeth council we knew that was not the whole story.”

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