Friday, April 25, 2014

News: Council makes "significant overpayments" during highway contract

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An internal audit at Rotherham Council has uncovered "significant financial errors" during the £14.7m improvement programme on the dual carriageway at the A57 in Rotherham.

The council-led scheme has seen a 1.5 mile section of the A57 turned into a dual carriageway from the Todwick crossroads to Junction 31 of the M1 motorway. The work also includes replacing the crossroads with a roundabout.

Contractors Ringway Infrastructure Services started on site in September 2012 and the new road is expected to be fully open to traffic this year.

The Department for Transport granted £11.8m for improvements and Rotherham Council committed £2.9m for the long-awaited scheme.

A report to the council's Audit Committee shows that internal auditors found weaknesses in the way the council checked the contractor's applications for payment which led to "significant overpayments" during a Major Highway Improvement Scheme contract, with some not yet corrected.

Rotherham Council admitted: "During the audit we identified weaknesses in the arrangements for checking the contractor's applications for payment which had led to significant overpayments. The majority of these were later identified and corrected by the contractor; however, we have concluded the overall control environment to be inadequate and are awaiting management's response to our recommendations.

"A follow-up review is planned for 2014/15 upon completion of the scheme and submission of the contractor's final account."

The report also shows that similar weaknesses and overpayments were also found with a recent council contract for emergency repair works to one of the council's reservoirs.

In the this case, internal auditors found budgetary control and contract management weaknesses and a subsequent failure to comply with the council's own Financial Regulations and Contract Standing Orders.

Auditors also found that the contractor was overpaid by £20,000 inc. VAT which has since been repaid to the authority by the contractor. A report has been issued setting out how controls could be strengthened to avoid a recurrence and the recommendations are now being implemented.

Rotherham Council website

Images: RMBC

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