POTTO: Judgement Day Looms?
To recap briefly, Potto Parish Council’s Internal Auditor, Mr Roger BRISLEY BCom FCA (70), a member of ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales) since 5th November 1980, is obligated to abide by ICAEW’s Code of Ethics, excerpt below:
As can be seen, Mr BRISLEY is obligated to deliver work (in this case the Internal Audit of Potto Council’s annual accounts) “which has to be trusted to be of value” and that Mr BRISLEY has “to demonstrate the highest standards of professional conduct”, in accordance with the ethical standards required of members of the ICAEW.
Additionally, it is a statutory requirement (ref: Regulation 5(1) of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015) for Internal Audits to be ‘effective’. What this means is that Mr BRISLEY must scrutinise and properly assess all pertinent financial (and other) activities of Potto Parish Council, prior to completion of his AIAR (Annual Internal Audit Report).
The evidence on Potto Council’s website www.potto.org.uk/ppc.php would strongly suggest that this has not always been the case.
A prime (but by no means sole) example is that, in 2021-22, Potto Parish Council had expenditure of over 200% of its total annual Precept income on two items, neither of which were even included anywhere in the Council’s Budget for that year, as is required by law. This apparently hasty and reckless expenditure was completed in breach of all the safeguards stated in Potto Council’s Financial Regulations and Standing Orders.
Nevertheless, Mr Brisley failed to recognise these two highly significant financial irregularities in his Internal Audit reports.
Shockingly, Mr Brisley’s AIAR had not a single tick in the ‘NO’ column (meaning NO shortcomings or irregularities) and he reported that Potto Council was “in general properly controlled” in his signed statement dated 13th June 2022, in which he asserted:
It is instructive to contrast Mr BRISLEY’s work with that of External Auditors PKF LITTLEJOHN LLP (appointed not by the Council but by the SAAA – Smaller Authorities’ Audit Appointments Ltd) – who, only a month later (in July 2022), issued a severely condemnatory Public Interest Report. This confirmed “significant weaknesses of Governance and Accountability” right across Potto Council’s range of responsibilities:
Accordingly, I would suggest that every reasonable person possessed of sound judgement would conclude that Mr BRISLEY’s Internal Audit work was found unreliable and untrustworthy and not executed to any recognised or acceptable professional standard – hence, it was carried out in breach of the ICAEW Ethical Code and in breach of a number of statutory Regulations.
Breaches of the ICAEW Code of Ethics by members inevitably impact on the credibility of the Institute; thus, it is reasonable to conclude that Mr BRISLEY has brought the name and good standing of ICAEW into disrepute, both in the eyes of the public and in the estimation of those in authority (likely including PKF LITTLEJOHN LLP, who appear to have assessed and confirmed Mr BRISLEY’s failings).
I made a complaint to ICAEW on 26th October 2022 about Mr BRISLEY, only to be informed on 4th November that “a similar complaint had already been received” and this was being ‘considered’ by Mr Darren PATERSON, ICAEW Case Manager – Professional Standards:
I am given to understand that this so-called ‘consideration‘ phase (apparently 30 months in duration) was extremely thorough and carried out with the ICAEW’s customary rigour, at a protracted – some would say glacial – pace. As with most professional institutes, the vast majority of complaints are dismissed at the ‘consideration’ stage – such is the imperative to preserve ‘reputational rectitude’. In effect, only the most evidentially ‘watertight’ cases attain sufficient traction to progress to the ‘Investigation‘ level, at which censure and even the ultimate sanction of dismissal (known as ‘being Struck Off’) may result.
Nevertheless, I am now advised that this ‘consideration’ phase has recently been completed and the ICAEW Investigation Committee (IC) met in early May 2023, and the matter has now been escalated to the full ‘Investigation’ status.
Following this IC meeting, and in accordance with the Institute’s rigorous approach, I understand that Mr BRISLEY has now been informed that a Professional Standards Complaint has been received from multiple complainants about the lack of ‘effectiveness’ or professionalism of his Internal Audit work at Potto Parish Council and that a Formal Professional Conduct Investigation is now underway by the ICAEW.
This is a detailed and time consuming process and it appears likely that it may be some time before a conclusion is reached and announced. Naturally, I intend to keep readers informed of developments in due course.
Meanwhile, according to the Minutes of Potto Parish Council’s meeting on Wednsday 15th March 2023
, Mr BRISLEY appears to have agreed to undertake responsibility for Potto Parish Council’s 2022/23 Internal Audit, so we must wait with baited breath to read his Reports, due to be published on the Council’s website in a matter of weeks:
One has to wonder whether or not Potto Parish Councillors are comfortable with the possibility that their choice of Internal Auditor may yet prove to be a source of embarrassment.
Additionally, I note that the annual accounts for Potto Village Hall are subject to audit by one “J Brisley” (who, I am informed, is actually Mrs Janet BRISLEY – Roger’s better half) and I suggest the Village Hall Committee should be aware of this ICAEW Investigation.
Though Mr BRISLEY retains his status as an ICAEW member, he would appear to have more or less retired from commerical activity some years ago:
CHILD’S PLAY CARDS LTD (07647437) – dissolved, 18th March 2014
CHILD’S PLAY CALENDARS LTD (07647436) – dissolved, 18th March 2014
BYE BYE LEN LIMITED (04437967) – dissolved, 13th October 2015
LEONARD BYE LIMITED (09116823) – resigned, 5th June 2017
Mr BRISLEY is still listed, on the Independent Directory as a Partner at Leonard Bye Chartered Accountants (not listed under that name at Companies House), of 80 Borough Road, Middlesbrough, Cleveland, TS1 2JN (the same address used by the four above-named companies).
“As well as general accountancy, audit and tax skills, our two partners – David Arkley and Jenny Shield – also have individual specialist skills which enables us to provide clients with a first class service as and when required.”
This suggests that Mr BRISLEY’s has been replaced in his role as Partner by a Ms Jenny SHIELD. The other listed partner is one David ARKLEY, perhaps the same man as the David Robert ARKLEY listed as Mr Brisley’s co-director in each of the above-named companies. One wonders whether or not Mr BRISLEY has informed Mr ARKLEY and Ms SHIELD that an ICAEW Investigation is underway which may conceivably result in Mr BRISLEY being ‘struck off’.
Finally, I wonder whether or not Potto Parish Council’s External Auditor (PKF LITTLEJOHN LLP) has noted Potto Parish Council’s response to a Freedom of Information request
lodged on 17th April 2023, which remains unaddressed (though acknowledged
, for the second time, on 17th May 2023), has now been marked ‘Refused’. The information sought was:
The Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 (a statutory instrument), at Part 3 (8), states:
Decisions and background papers to be made available to the public
8.—(1) The written record, together with any background papers, must as soon as reasonably practicable after the record is made, be made available for inspection by members of the public—
(a) at all reasonable hours, at the offices of the relevant local government body;
(b) on the website of the relevant local government body, if it has one; and,
(c) by such other means that the relevant local government body considers appropriate.
[my emphasis in bold]
The law makes it unnecessary, therefore, to seek this information under the auspices of the FOIA – and unlawful to withhold it under any circumstances – because the law requires it to be published on the Council’s website.
The Potto Parish Council RFO/Clerk Joanne STOREY has perhaps overlooked the legal requirements, as well as PKF LITTLEJOHN LLP’s Recommendation R9 of the July 2022 Public interest Report, which states:
R9 We recommend that the Council should: undertake a review of its arrangements for handling Freedom of Information requests in light of the findings of the Information Commissioner;
Meanwhile, the Council insists that all 17 of the PIR Recommendations have been fully addressed.
In my view, the Clerk could not be relied upon to address a postcard.
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