Gwent drainage board won't recover cash
8:00am Wednesday 6th February 2013 in News
A TROUBLED drainage board has decided against recovering over-payments made to its former top officer, a group of AMs heard yesterday.
The Assembly's Public Accounts Committee yesterday heard evidence from the Wales Audit Office (WAO) on its damning report into the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board.
But members of the committee questioned why the WAO did not pick up the issues earlier in its annual audit of the organisation.
Last October the WAO revealed that the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board (CWLIDB) occasionally acted unlawfully, overpaid former clerk and engineer Dean Jackson-Johns by as much as £20,000 a year and paid thousands for trips for members.
The organisation was auditing the CWLIDB annually but did not investigate those problems until whistleblowers raised concerns.
Anthony Barrett, who wrote the report, told the committee that one of its recommendations was for the drainage board to consider the recovery of salary overpayments made to the former clerk and chief engineer, Dean Jackson-Johns.
He said the board considered the move, but in light of legal advice resolved to take no further action.
North Wales Lib Dem AM Aled Roberts said he couldn't believe that the WAO's annual audits didn't note that the Mr Jackson-Johns was overpaid and why there were 40 people going on foreign visits.
Mr Barrett said annual audits wouldn't have looked at how many people were going on a visit, or whether Mr Jackson-Johns was paid at the right level or not.
Plaid Gwent AM Jocelyn Davies said: "You are telling me that the annual audit that you did is superficial."
Mr Barrett said the work they needed to do was "limited to what we are required to do to give an opinion on the accounts" and said they would have been challenged if they did more.
Mohammad Asghar, Tory AM in South Wales East, said the WAO was "equally responsible for the misuse of those funds."
He asked why local authorities, which had representatives on the board some of whom did not always attend, did not pick up issues earlier.
David Rees, who worked on the report, said there were council reps that had taken matters "very seriously" and brought matters to their attention.
Mr Rees said there is a need to confirm that issues at the CWLIDB were not replicated at other drainage boards that the organisation managed.
Mr Barrett said the Welsh Government is looking into the future of drainage boards. He said it is possible that boards could be merged together, subsumed into National Resources Wales or that the status-quo could be maintained.
It is now up to the committee to decide whether it investigates the drainage board itself, following yesterday's meeting.