Auditors to look at V & A debacle

At the recent meeting of the Scrutiny Committee there was a report from the council's external auditors, KPMG (pages 34-61), regarding their audit plan for the financial year 2014-15.  I asked a few questions about this plan mostly around the apparent lack of mention of the V & A Project.  I was somewhat reassured to be told that the V & A project would be 'an obvious area of focus' for their work by representatives of KPMG who were present.

I was surprised reading the KPMG report that I could not find a single reference to the V & A project. There were references to all sorts of external bodies from the Lord Provost's charities to the Common Good Fund to Leisure & Culture Dundee but no mention of the V & A or Design Dundee Limited.

I asked if the V & A would form part of their work. I was told by the senior auditor that it was 'an obvious area of focus.' I was pleased to hear this as it is important that we get to the bottom of how the over-budget cost of the V & A could be hidden from councillors for at least nine months. The council knew that it was over budget in April 2014 but chose not to tell councillors or the public until January 2015. I would be also be interested to know what those officers and councillors who hid this information thought was going to happen.

Governance is not something that people get very excited about but I am clear and the V & A episode proves that we need to take good governance seriously. Better decisions come from better scrutiny. The most puzzling aspect of the whole V & A project is that there is clear cross-party support for it, so why were opposition councillors given answers which were at best wrong.

Whilst it may be a technicality it appears with every passing day that the decision made on 8 September, five months after budget issues were shared with the Scottish Government but four months before they were shared with opposition councillors or the people of Dundee, may not have been competent due to the financial information being at best wrong. This something that should concern us all. I look forward to the various reports which will come forward in the hope of getting some clarity and ensuring that there can never be a repetition of this debacle.