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‘Great progress’ made by key council department to address problems

Potholes picture from Twitter by Jonathan Greatorex at Rhiwlas - near Llansilin

“GREAT progress” has been made to rectify systemic problems in a key Powys County Council department.

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, February 27, senior councillor received a report from the Governance and Audit Committee working group that had conducted a “deep dive” into the Highways Transport and Recycling Service.

Last year the group had look into issues in the department that had been the subject of internal investigations.

The council’s internal auditors, SWAP have carried out seven audits into: commissioning, procurement monitoring and delivery, stock, fleet, non-standard payments, and time recording within the department.

One of these investigations by SWAP follows allegations in the summer of 2020 that tarmac was being misused and that private driveways were being resurfaced using council material.

Lay member and vice chairman of the council’s Governance and Audit committee John Brautigam said: “Cabinet will recall that these SWAP reports were very unfavourable.

“We decided as a committee to take these as a deep dive one by one.

“We are satisfied that great progress has been made in terms of the accountability of the section and its use of materials, personnel and so on.”

He added that this had been confirmed in follow work by SWAP.

Mr Brautigam stressed the report was not about: “the number of potholes being filled” but about the “proper” accounting and procedures being followed.

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But one “red flag” remains is that the “no progress” had been made in appointing a computer software specialist to run a programme called AMX.

This software helps manage the department’s maintenance work on the roads of Powys.

Mr Brautigam said that he now understood that since the beginning of the month the job vacancy to work on the AMX software had now been filled.

Highways transport and recycling portfolio holder Liberal Democrat Cllr Jackie Charlton said: “I want to thank you and the working group for looking into this.

“It’s something I’ve kept a close watching brief on since I became a cabinet member, and I can see the progress being made.”

She added that senior staff had accepted all the findings and had “followed through” with work to comply with “everything” being asked of them.

“It was a real challenge to find someone to deliver AMX,” added Cllr Charlton.

Cllr Jackie Charlton (Pic: PCC YouTube site)

Cabinet accepted the working group recommendations.

The outcomes and concerns identified in the report include:

The pace in which the council acted upon the discovery of malpractice was “disappointing” and left the council “open to criticism.”

Implementing new more robust monitoring methodologies is an essential element for a successful service, it working group said that prior to this, it was not evident that “adequate monitoring” was being done.

The working group stressed the importance of embedding improvements at all levels of the service.

The group felt that the audit reports did not always provide clarity and that officers had to explain the range of road surfacing work being done by the department.

This ranges from filling potholes, patching works to full and major re-surfacing projects as well as the work done on trunk roads as agents for the Welsh Government.