EXCLUSIVE: Internal auditor blows whistle over culture and governance failures

By Dan Peters | 03 September 2020

A senior auditor has called for action after raising concerns about culture and governance failures that ‘stem from the very top’ of Thanet DC.

In a letter seen by The MJ, Christine Parker, who is head of the East Kent Internal Audit Partnership, which covers four councils including Thanet, said she had ‘significant concern’ around senior officer relationships and ‘blurred reporting lines’ within management at the council.

Ms Parker wrote: ‘My view is that all is not right with governance at Thanet DC.

‘With these matters unresolved it insidiously affects the culture of the council and is hugely damaging.

'If good governance is not demonstrated at the top then the rules of good governance do not apply further down the layers of the organisation.’

Ms Parker highlighted that ‘several whistleblowing matters’ remained outstanding and the council was being ‘held back by the unwillingness to conclude’ investigations.

She continued: ‘The chief executive said to me all whistleblowing must be investigated, but now the grapevine would have you believe that whistleblowers get disciplined, which breads fear and is very unhealthy and damaging to governance and culture.

‘In my view this is all about people, their relationships, behaviours and attitudes, and I only experience this culture at Thanet DC, not the other councils that I work for.’

An investigation into alleged bullying and harassment at the council last year found ‘substantial evidence’ to support some claims made against two senior Thanet officers.

Council leader, Cllr Rick Everitt, said: 'This letter was not addressed to the council leadership and, in fact, was only received by members of the administration when the shadow leader sent it on to cabinet. 

'We are aware of some of the concerns expressed, which is why the chief executive and I have asked the Local Government Association to instigate a peer review so that the issues can be subject to independent assessment. 

'We hope it will also look at the evident damaging practice of leaking internal correspondence among some individuals within the council and why it is they are doing that.'

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