Friday, January 09, 2015

Further problems are being unearthed

Investigations into the town’s accounts for 2009 to 2011 continue as it becomes clear that the previous mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina, was in the habit of issuing cheques to "bearer" meaning presumably himself. This practice is of course prohibited because there is no way of knowing what the sums of money were actually used for. There are other payments in the accounts that are simply labelled “aid”. Any kind of aid paid for by the council has to be preceded by an administrative enquiry accompanied by reports from technicians. It seems there are no such reports in the records of council meetings.

This type of practice was not uncommon in Bigastro under the socialists. There is a case in court at the moment inquiring into cheques for 3,000 euros that Moya issued to two of his companies whilst he was mayor.

It may be that these payments from the council's funds were legitimate and that there is a perfectly acceptable explanation for them.  That is not the point though, council accounts need to be clear and transparent.

What I fail to understand is how these anomalies were allowed to slip under the net.

When I was in charge of finance at Anfield, our accounts and procedures were thoroughly checked each year by auditors. Any anomalies were reported first to me and the Senior Finance Officer and then to the Governing Body. There were never any problems with the actual accounts, the reports mainly spoke of procedural changes that we were asked to make. Often we would find differences between the demands of an auditor one year and another the next, in some cases they were contradictory.

I was also Treasurer of my Masonic Lodge for a number of years and again my accounts were audited by financial professionals who happened to be members of the lodge. Every penny of income and expenditure had to be accounted for and, like with my school accounts, the issues were always procedural e.g. an item of expenditure placed under the wrong heading. In fact, the main complaint I received was that my accounts were too detailed for many to understand. What they wanted was a simple income and expenditure account rather than the detailed assets and liabilities account that I gave them alongside my account for income and expenditure.

I assume that town hall accounts in Spain have to be audited and that the reports produced have to be submitted to both the council and possibly a higher authority. Surely the government, that provides a large part of the funding, requires some sort of audited account from the towns that it helps to finance. If that is the case, how come the ruling party in Bigastro was able to get away with such obvious malpractice over a number of years?

If it is not, then the government are as much to blame for allowing councils to operate without proper financial control.

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