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A COMMUNITY council has been criticised for not preparing accounts on time and then failing to cooperate with Audit Wales, which was looking into the issue.

Llanpumsaint Community Council, Carmarthenshire, spends around £8,000 per year and is having to settle a £3,456 bill with the public spending watchdog because of all the extra work generated.

According to Audit Wales’s report, the community council’s clerk – who was also the person responsible for submitting accounts – said he was innumerate and that he didn’t see the purpose of preparing accounts for audit work given the small size of the body he worked for.

The clerk also indicated that he viewed the provision of bilingual council minutes as more of a priority than the provision of accounts.

The report went on to quote a letter from the clerk to a Wales Audit officer, which said it was unlikely the community council would submit the audit return in future “due to the unfairness of the administrative burdens on us”, and that councillors would prefer to contribute the money saved to a charity or a welfare organisation.

Audit Wales said the clerk had not initially realised that he would be the responsible officer for submitting audit returns, and that he had used his own accountant. When advised this was not appropriate, said the report, “he decided that he would simply not prepare accounts”.

It said the clerk obstructed the audit from April 2018 to the end of 2020 by not supplying the necessary documents and explanation, while “providing extensive but irrelevant adverse commentary on audit requirements”.

Audit Wales said it had not identified any misappropriation of money, notwithstanding the incomplete records.

But, in the report author’s view, the clerk had used and displayed “offensive” language and behaviour.

The report added: “In my opinion, by not ensuring that the clerk prepared accounts and in failing to moderate his conduct, councillors individually and collectively have not met their duties and, in this respect, have fallen short in serving the community of Llanpumsaint.”

The report concluded that the accounts for 2017-18 and 2018-19 were mis-stated.

A statement on behalf of the community council said: “We are a small rural council with a precept of just over £7,000 per annum, and Audit Wales has received our audited accounts which have balanced every penny accounted for.

“In other words, no money is missing.”

The statement claimed the problems occurred because Audit Wales didn’t accept “fully audited accounts” drawn up by an independent accountant.

It added: “This dispute has rolled on for a long time and we have tried on many occasions to come to an understanding, but unfortunately we have not been successful.”

The council must consider Audit Wales’s report and the recommendations it made, including the appointment of a responsible financial officer with appropriate skills, at a public meeting within a month.

The community council clerk said he refuted the Audit Wales report and claimed he was prevented from submitting the accounts because he couldn’t use his own accountant.

“They (Audit Wales) never gave me an alternative method,” he said. “I wasn’t given the opportunity.”

He said he will ask the spending watchdog to redact the report as he felt his human rights had been violated.



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