Container Park Sheffield: ‘Catalogue of failures’ not addressed properly, says campaigner
Ruth Hubbard, a member of the campaign SOS Sheffield Oversight and Scrutiny, said that members of the council’s audit and standards committee had not taken proper action over an independent auditor’s report into the trouble-dogged container park project.
The project was designed to get people into the city with the containers used for eating, drinking and entertainment spaces, but delays, disagreements, vendors pulling out and low footfall were some of the problems before it was killed off.
Ms Hubbard told a meeting of the city council (February 7) that the auditor’s report, which was partly redacted, outlined “a catalogue of failures – procurement, management of the contract, governance, planning control, decision making, financial controls and monitoring, stakeholder engagement and communication, risk management”.
She added: “The audit and standards committee has chosen twice now not to endorse the recommendations and actions identified by the internal audit report on the adjustments being made within the council.”
She said that committee members wanted to put the emphasis more on who was responsible “and particularly the political context in pushing through decisions on the project”.
It is clear what actions have been taken in relation to council officers, she said, but it is not clear what has happened over the accountability of politicians.
Ms Hubbard asked: “Where will weaknesses and failures in political scrutiny be addressed in the case of the Fargate Container Park?”
Committee chair Coun Mohammed Mahroof replied: “I think we had a fairly healthy debate within audit and standards itself, and quite rightly so because I think it is a subject that is of huge public interest.”
He said that the committee at its February meeting had noted the findings and recommendations of the internal audit report, adding: “In particular it noted that 14 critical recommendations identified by the internal audit have been implemented.”
“Having said that, as the question notes, it’s important that the council is open and transparent, quite rightly so, and in particular when things go wrong, and we’ve seen quite a number of people raise questions here where things have actually gone wrong, and we should be learning from that.”
Coun Mahroof said that the committee has carried out its functions properly and responsibly. He said that the governance committee should be looking at the effectiveness of oversight and scrutiny arrangements.