Partial Assurance Internal Audits

The request was refused by Slough Borough Council.

Dear Slough Borough Council,
I observed in this report, a series of ‘partial assurance’ internal audits. Please provide the full internal audit for the items as follows
* subsidiary companies
* Governance ( Corporate Scrutiny)
* Governance (A&G)

https://democracy.slough.gov.uk/document...

I note your comment on page 25 that Councillors may not rely on the accuracy of Officer reporting, hence the need to see the full internal audits not summaries.

Yours faithfully,

Gwen Swinburn

FOI, Slough Borough Council

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References

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_FreedomOfInformation, Slough Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Gwen Swinburn,

 

Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to your FOI.

 

More time than expected is required to obtain the information. Your
request is receiving attention and a reply will be sent as soon as
possible.

 

Regards

 

Slough Borough Council

FOI Officer

 

 

show quoted sections

Dear Slough Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Slough Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Partial Assurance Internal Audits'.

These internal audits are already completed so just have to be provided - I am accordingly asking for an internal review of this delay which is a breach. If it was many documents it would be understandable- but this is not.
Thank you

[ GIVE DETAILS ABOUT YOUR COMPLAINT HERE ]

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

Yours faithfully,

Gwen Swinburn

FOI, Slough Borough Council

1 Attachment

Thank you for the email submitted to [1][email address] which is being
dealt under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 unless advised otherwise

 

A further reply will be issued to you within 20 working days.

'Disclaimer: You should be aware that all e-mails received and sent by
this Organisation are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and
therefore may be disclosed to a third party. (The information contained in
this message or any of its attachments may be privileged and confidential
and intended for the exclusive use of the addressee).  The views expressed
may not be official policy but the personal views of the originator.  If
you are not the addressee any disclosure, reproduction, distribution,
other dissemination or use of this communication is strictly prohibited. 
If you received this message in error please return it to the originator
and confirm that you have deleted all copies of it. All messages sent by
this organisation are checked for viruses using the latest antivirus
products.  This does not guarantee a virus has not been transmitted.  
Please therefore ensure that you take your own precautions for the
detection and eradication of viruses.'

References

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1. mailto:[email address]

_FreedomOfInformation, Slough Borough Council

Dear Gwen Swinburn,

Thank you for your email below.

Apologies for the delay in replying to your initial FOI request.

We are currently unable to process a FOI Review as the original response/decision has not yet been issued. Please be assured your request is being investigated for a reply to be sent soon.

Regards,

Finbar McSweeney
Complaints, Casework & FOI Lead
Slough Borough Council
Tel:   01753 875244
[mobile number]
www.slough.gov.uk

show quoted sections

_FreedomOfInformation, Slough Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Gwen Swinburn,

 

By way of a further update; additional time is required to review the
reports fully.

 

Due to staff leave, the realistic expectation for the response to your FOI
to be sent is in the new year at the latest.

 

Thank you for your patience.

 

Regards,

 

Finbar McSweeney

Complaints, Casework & FOI Lead

Slough Borough Council

Tel:      01753 875244

[mobile number]

[1]www.slough.gov.uk

 

'Disclaimer: You should be aware that all e-mails received and sent by
this Organisation are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and
therefore may be disclosed to a third party. (The information contained in
this message or any of its attachments may be privileged and confidential
and intended for the exclusive use of the addressee).  The views expressed
may not be official policy but the personal views of the originator.  If
you are not the addressee any disclosure, reproduction, distribution,
other dissemination or use of this communication is strictly prohibited. 
If you received this message in error please return it to the originator
and confirm that you have deleted all copies of it. All messages sent by
this organisation are checked for viruses using the latest antivirus
products.  This does not guarantee a virus has not been transmitted.  
Please therefore ensure that you take your own precautions for the
detection and eradication of viruses.'

References

Visible links
1. http://www.slough.gov.uk/

McSweeney Finbar, Slough Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Gwen Swinburn,

 

Thank you for your patience on this request.

 

Please be assured this is receiving attention and as it is a long detailed
report, further time is required to consider this matter carefully before
formally responding.

 

Regards,

 

Finbar McSweeney

Complaints, Casework & FOI Lead

Slough Borough Council

Tel:      01753 875244

[mobile number]

[1]www.slough.gov.uk

 

'Disclaimer: You should be aware that all e-mails received and sent by
this Organisation are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and
therefore may be disclosed to a third party. (The information contained in
this message or any of its attachments may be privileged and confidential
and intended for the exclusive use of the addressee).  The views expressed
may not be official policy but the personal views of the originator.  If
you are not the addressee any disclosure, reproduction, distribution,
other dissemination or use of this communication is strictly prohibited. 
If you received this message in error please return it to the originator
and confirm that you have deleted all copies of it. All messages sent by
this organisation are checked for viruses using the latest antivirus
products.  This does not guarantee a virus has not been transmitted.  
Please therefore ensure that you take your own precautions for the
detection and eradication of viruses.'

References

Visible links
1. http://www.slough.gov.uk/

Gwen Swinburn left an annotation ()

I have now sent this to the ICO - patience is one thing, but this is now multiple months of delays- looks like keeping this from public view.

Gwen Swinburn left an annotation ()

The ICO has required that you respond within 10 working days-

_FreedomOfInformation, Slough Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Swinburn,

 

Freedom of Information Act Request

 

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (the ‘Act’) and apologies for the delay in
responding.

 

In your request you have asked for copies of three ‘partial assurance’
internal audit reports as highlighted in the Internal Audit Annual Report
2020/21. The reports you have requested are as follows:

 

o subsidiary companies

 

o Governance ( Corporate Scrutiny)

 

o Governance (A&G)

 

There are no reports titled Governance (Corporate Scrutiny) or Governance
(A&G) referenced in the Internal Audit Annual Report, and no similar
reports that we can identify. Therefore, we do not hold the information
you have requested in relation to these reports.

 

The report titled ‘Council Subsidiary Companies’ was an advisory piece of
work undertaken at the request of management and the Audit and Corporate
Governance Committee. The report is a high-level review of the governance
arrangements, financial controls and business plan risks across the
companies, including a review of the latest sets of management accounts at
the time of the review, longer term business plans and consideration of
these in comparison to current performance where appropriate, and the
financial and governance controls in place for the subsidiaries. Therefore
the information contained in the report is predominantly financial and
commercial in nature.

 

This report does not have a ‘partial assurance’ judgement as advisory
pieces of work are not subject to the same scoring system as other work.
However, a summary of the work was reported in the Annual Internal Audit
Report due to the commercially sensitive nature of the internal audit
findings. This piece of work was completed in July 2021 and resulted in
the Director of Finance commissioning a whole scale review of the
Council’s eleven companies. This review is on-going.

 

The report highlights a range of commercial matters regarding some of the
Council’s companies. Since we received your request, 5 of these companies
(DISH CLS Ltd, DISH RP (FP) Ltd, Herschel Homes Ltd, Slough Direct
Services Ltd and Slough Asset Management Ltd) are in the process of being
wound up as they do not trade and are dormant. DISH RP Ltd is also dormant
and is expected to be wound up shortly. Four companies GRE5 Ltd, SUR LLP,
DISH Co Ltd, and James Elliman Homes Ltd are subject to review and ongoing
work as to their futures which involves commercially sensitive discussions
with a range of partners and stakeholders. To release the financial and
non-financial information contained in the Internal Audit report at this
time would be likely to lead to significant commercial detriment to the
Council’s commercial interests.

 

Therefore our decision is not to disclose the reports relying on section
43 of the Act. Section 43(2) exempts information whose disclosure would,
or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any legal
person (including the council or its subsidiary companies, and any other
company or legal entity). The council’s subsidiary companies are allowed
to, and do engage in commercial activities in their own right and may
generate their own income, and therefore the information in the report
about these activities falls within the scope of the exemption. Our
decision is that there is a real and significant likelihood that
disclosing the report at this time would be likely to prejudice the
council’s commercial interests in ongoing negotiations and decisions in
relation to the operation and future of the subsidiary companies.

 

For example, in relation to GRE5 and SUR LLP, there are current
contentious live issues - relating to cladding works, insurance and
potential legal claims in relation to GRE5, and SUR is very much a
commercial enterprise and is currently engaged with ongoing commercial
negotiations with partners and stakeholders on disposal values of sites
and other matters referenced in the report. James Elliman Homes Ltd was
set up in January 2017 with the aim of increasing the Council’s housing
supply whilst providing housing options to vulnerable groups within the
Borough. The company acquires a portfolio of properties over, with the
properties let by the Council at a mix of market, local housing allowance
and Slough living rent rates. There are specified underlying market
acquisition assumptions. The report includes detailed financial
information about purchase costs, income, loan interest, support costs,
and business planning. The property acquisition and letting market is
highly competitive and disclosure of this level of financial and
commercial information would be likely to prejudice the operation of the
company in the marketplace by making public financial and commercial
information that be used and exploited for commercial advantage by
competitors or potential buyers in the future.

 

While a decision has been made to strike off the companies mentioned, they
are still in existence.

 

The Public Interest Test

 

Section 43 is a qualified exemption. Therefore we have considered whether
the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public
interest in disclosure.

 

There is a strong case for openness and transparency in public affairs,
and for accountability for the spending of public money.

 

However, there is undoubtedly a public interest in allowing public
authorities to withhold information which, if disclosed, would negatively
affect their ability to negotiate or to compete in a commercial
environment. The subsidiary companies operate in a competitive market.
Prejudicing the commercial interests of one player in the market would
distort competition in that market, which in itself would not be in the
public interest, and there is a strong public interest in protecting the
commercial interests of individual companies and ensuring they are able to
compete fairly. In relation to property disposals it is clearly
prejudicial to the Council’s commercial interests to disclose business
planning and financial and commercial assumptions.

 

It is also relevant that there is much information about the council’s
subsidiary companies publicly available, and in summary reports. The
council is currently subject to forensic examination by government
appointed commissioners, and in due course detailed public reports will be
published dealing with the council’s financial affairs. Therefore the
public interest in transparency and accountability and the spending of
public money will be fully satisfied at that time.

 

Right of Appeal:

 

If you are not satisfied with the Council’s response to your request for
information, you can ask for an internal review of your reply. To do this,
you should provide details of your complaint by emailing
[1][email address] or write to; Freedom of Information department,
Slough Borough Council, Observatory House, 25 Windsor Road, Slough,
Berkshire, SL1 2EL. You should do this as soon as possible, or, in any
case, within 2 months from the date of our response to your request.

If, following the outcome of the internal review, you remain dissatisfied
with the Council’s response to your information request; you have the
right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

 

Tel: 0303 123 1113

 

Web site: [2]https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/

 

Yours sincerely

 

Finbar McSweeney

Complaints, Casework & FOI Lead

Slough Borough Council

Tel: 01753 875244

[mobile number]

[3]www.slough.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

'Disclaimer: You should be aware that all e-mails received and sent by
this Organisation are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and
therefore may be disclosed to a third party. (The information contained in
this message or any of its attachments may be privileged and confidential
and intended for the exclusive use of the addressee).  The views expressed
may not be official policy but the personal views of the originator.  If
you are not the addressee any disclosure, reproduction, distribution,
other dissemination or use of this communication is strictly prohibited. 
If you received this message in error please return it to the originator
and confirm that you have deleted all copies of it. All messages sent by
this organisation are checked for viruses using the latest antivirus
products.  This does not guarantee a virus has not been transmitted.  
Please therefore ensure that you take your own precautions for the
detection and eradication of viruses.'

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/
3. http://www.slough.gov.uk/