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Audit Wales report on relationship between council and waste contractor published soon

AN AUDIT Wales report which reviews the relationship between a waste services contractor and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council should be published soon.

At a meeting of the council’s Governance an Audit committee, on Tuesday, December 7, members were told that a draft report regarding Silent Valley Waste Services is with Blaenau Gwent for comment and waiting for approval.

The information was revealed as members discussed the Audit Wales Certificate for Performance by Blaenau Gwent during 2020/21, which judged that enough had been done to comply with the legal requirements.

The council’s audit and risk manager, Louise Rosser told the committee that the report was in front of them “just to note” the compliance certificate.

Cllr Haydn Trollope said: “I note the report but it would be wrong of us not to have minuted the dismay of how long it’s taking for Audit Wales to come back with the report so we can sort out Silent Valley.”

Alice Rushby of Audit Wales said: “The report is now with the council for comment and has been since the beginning of November.”

Cllr Trollope challenged this and said he had been part of a meeting on Monday, December 6, of opposition councillors and the council managing director.

Cllr Trollope told the committee that they were informed that the council was waiting on Audit Wales for the report.

Ms Rushby said: “That’s not what I have been told.”

Cllr Hodgins said: “We’re all frustrated at the delay, but at least we know that if reports take a long time they’ve been scrutinised thoroughly and gone right through the audit process.”

Ms Rosser said that the Silent Valley report would come before the committee at the “appropriate time.”

Documents as part of the meeting agenda said that Audit Wales have concluded their review of the arrangements between Silent Valley Waste Services and Blaenau Gwent and that a draft report has been issued and is currently being considered by the council.

The whole Silent Valley saga goes back a few years.

In March 2020 a police investigation into “alleged financial discrepancies” in relation to the council’s arrangements with Silent Valley were concluded with “no further action taken.”

Gwent Police’s probe began after they were notified of concerns by Audit Wales when they were known as the Wales Audit Office in 2017.

Concerns over the council’s relationship with Silent Valley Waste Services, held up the auditing of the financial statements for 2016/17 and 2017/18.

In November 2020, Audit Wales provided a modified audit opinion, saying the accounts present a “true and fair view” of the council’s financial position, except for pension payments relating to two senior officers who were also directors of Silent Valley

The auditor general said these payments “appear to be contrary to law”, as separate pension accounts were not opened.

Blaenau Gwent council says there were “procedural errors” in the way payments were made and disputed that they were unlawful.

The problems surrounding Silent Valley have angered some councillors who feel they have been kept in the dark over the issues.


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