William Eichler 16 January 2019

Newham to improve financial management after £9m fraud allegations

The Mayor of Newham has announced plans to set up a commission to advise the council on how to ‘become a beacon of good practice’ in its financial management.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and her cabinet members proposed setting up the Internal Control Commission in the wake of allegations of a £9m fraud in the local authority’s repairs and maintenance service (RMS) under the previous administration.

The proposed commission, which will be discussed next Tuesday at an ‘extraordinary meeting’, would be led by an independent chair and would look at how the council can become a model of best practice for internal control and governance.

It would also look into how the council could not prevent issues in RMS from arising in the first place.

The allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement were first made in December after a whistleblower drew attention to the problem.

A council investigation discovered that there was an £8.78m overspend during the 2017/18 financial year, caused by the loss of control of the Keep Newham Moving highways repair programme, which was agreed in 2016.

Insufficient due diligence and risk assessment was undertaken when RMS undertook the programme to assess its capacity to deliver, the council found.

It concluded that there was ‘insufficient evidence of criminal activity’.

‘I am committed to making Newham Council more open and transparent than ever before. In the spirit of that promise, I welcome the consideration to establish an Internal Control Commission,’ said Mayor Fiaz.

‘This proposal aligns with my administration’s commitment to transparency, and improving the governance of the Council in the interests of all Newham residents. We are putting things right. We have been proactive in resolving the financial mismanagement in RMS and taking clear action.

‘I have instructed the new management team at RMS to implement a whole series of measures designed to offer reassurance on the effectiveness, governance, and efficiency of management, performance and compliance.’

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