Audit Investigations and Wrongly Calculated Payments

The request was refused by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Given how crucial council payments are to those in need, could you inform me of...

1. The number of internal and external audit investigations that have been undertaken over the last five years into payments to residents in receipt of benefits or suffering hardship?

2. The number of payments wrongly calculated within this period?

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your request for information dated 8 November 2016, in which you asked :

1. The number of internal and external audit investigations that have been undertaken over the last five years into payments to residents in receipt of benefits or suffering hardship?
2. The number of payments wrongly calculated within this period?

Before we are able to proceed with your request, please provide clarification as to the scope of your enquiry.

(1) please specify to which benefits you refer i.e. Housing Benefit

(2) Please define what elements you refer to as 'wrong' - there are a number of factors which can contribute to / result in an award of benefit ultimately being incorrect. Are there are any specific factors/circumstances that you are interested in? Identifying such issues through reviewing audit outcomes, from an external audit perspective, can be complex so it is vital that we have a clear understanding of the precise information sought.

As we are unable to proceed with your enquiry until your clarification is received, your request is now on hold. Once we receive sufficient clarity as to the scope of your enquiry, we will aim to respond to you within 20 working days as per the Freedom of information legislation.

Yours sincerely

Lynette Paterson
Senior Information Management Officer
Business Services - Digital

Wallasey Town Hall
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED 
Tel: 0151 691 8201
[Wirral Borough Council request email]

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may involve licensing and the application of a charge

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Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,

In response to your request for clarification:

1. All benefits to those individuals and families suffering hardship.

2. 'Wrong' when due to errors by the council. If it would be less complex I would like you to list:

A. The number of external and internal reports over the period.
B. The dates they were completed.
C. The benefits they examined.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,

Please reply to my own response clarifying the subject matter of this request, dated 12th November 2016.

A full response to my clarified request is now overdue,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Cardin

 

Thank you for your recent request for information , as clarified in your
email dated 12 November 2016. The Council’s response, which is due today,
is set out below:

 

Please see the attached documents showing both internal and external audit
investigations undertaken over the past 5 years relating to benefits. This
information should answer your clarified enquiry of :

A. The number of external and internal reports over the period

B. The dates they were completed

C. The benefits they examined

 

The Council is unable to quantify the issue of ‘hardship’ as this is a
subjective value and can only be determined on a case by case basis.  The
Council does not record information in such a way as to extract
information based upon the reasons for changes to benefit payments

 

You have the right under Section 17 of the Act to ask for an internal
review of the Council’s response to your enquiry. This should be sent to:
[1][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

If you are dissatisfied with the result of your internal review, you also
have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner, whose address
is

 

The Information Commissioner’s Office,

Wycliffe House,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire SK9 5AF

[2]www.ico.gov.uk

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Lynette Paterson

Senior Information Management Officer

Business Services - Digital

 

Wallasey Town Hall

Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED 

[3]Tel: 0151 691 8201

[4][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

 

[5]LGC Awards15_Winner_MIP

 

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

 

 

 

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References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]
2. http://www.ico.gov.uk/
3. file:///tmp/Tel:0151
4. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]

Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,

Thanks for your response.

Just to clarify, I have not retracted any of the questions asked up to this point. I was happy to assist you by clarifying my original query upon your advice. However your response has not adequately addressed or answered any of the points raised in both the first and second request.

I would now like to ask for an internal review to be conducted and wish the internal reviewer to be mindful of the following:

1. I require a response to my request for the number of wrongly calculated payments i.e. 'wrong when due to errors by the council' – which is information that should be available and lays at the heart of this request.

2. I believe the council's decision to redact is not supported correctly, is not permissible and is a clear breach of the Freedom of Information Act

3. Please confirm whether 'Benefits Service' represents the specific 'external audits' I requested.

The specific factors and circumstances you referred to are as follows:

The Martin Morton DASS case ultimately identified a declared amount of £736,756.97 wrongly deducted from a number of Supported Living tenants’ bank accounts.

This query is written with the intention of identifying if the Council has learned those lessons and is now correctly implementing national and local policy to ensure some of the most disadvantaged residents receive the payments they are entitled to.

I would therefore suggest that the internal reviewer does their utmost to co-operate with this FOI request as it is written in good faith, with the public interest to the forefront.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr. Cardin,
Thank you for request for an Internal Review. Please see my comments alongside your original questions below. If you remain dissatisfied with the result of this Internal Review, you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner, whose address is:-
The Information Commissioner’s Office,
Wycliffe House,
Water Lane,
Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF
www.ico.gov.uk

Yours sincerely
Jane Corrin
Records and Information Manager
Business Services - Digital

Wallasey Town Hall
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to use it for your own purposes, including any non-commercial research you are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may involve licensing and the application of a charge


Questions and Responses

1. I require a response to my request for the number of wrongly calculated payments i.e. 'wrong when due to errors by the council' – which is information that should be available and lays at the heart of this request.
Response - Payments are generally paid on a two weekly or four weekly basis throughout the year. To calculate the number of wrongly calculated payments i.e. wrong due to errors by the Council would require a manual exercise which would take officers over the 18 hours threshold allowed by the legislation, which is known as the appropriate limit. The manual exercise would be required as payments can be incorrect due to a number of reasons, including claimant error. Therefore each payment which we could retrieve from our system as wrongly calculated would have to be then reviewed by a benefits officer to establish what sort of error caused the payment to be incorrect. The Council therefore refuses this part of your request and seeks to rely on Section 12(1) of the legislation. More information on this exemption has been provided for you below.

Section 12(1) of the FOIA is a provision which allows a public authority to refuse to comply with a request for information where the cost of compliance is estimated to exceed a set limit known as the appropriate limit. Regulation 4(3) of the Fees Regulations states that a public authority can only take into account the costs it reasonably expects to incur in carrying out the following permitted activities in complying with the request:
determining whether the information is held;
locating the information, or a document containing it;
retrieving the information, or a document containing it; and
extracting the information from a document containing it.
All public authorities should calculate the time spent on the permitted activities at the flat rate of £25 per person, per hour. This means that the appropriate limit will be exceeded if it would require more than 24 hours work for central government, legislative bodies and the armed forces, and 18 hours work for all other public authorities.

2. I believe the council's decision to redact is not supported correctly, is not permissible and is a clear breach of the Freedom of Information Act.
Response - The redacted information related to safeguarding & litigation and was not information which you had requested or was related to your enquiry.

3. Please confirm whether 'Benefits Service' represents the specific 'external audits' I requested.
Response - Yes it does.

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