Concern over care service

Hart homes rejected
Hart homes rejected

AUDITORS have raised concerns about administrative procedures in place at a scheme which aims to help people live more independently.

Hartlepool Borough Council has carried out an audit of Who Cares North East, which is based at Manor Residents’ Association (MRA), which itself was subject to a damning audit report.

The council awarded Who Cares (NE) a contract worth £680,000 over two years back in 2011 to run a town-wide handyperson, connected care and independent living service.

But officers concluded that “limited assurance” can be placed on the procedures to manage council funds provided to the community interest company, which also has bases at Burbank and West View.

A range of issues were identified including no copies of payslips kept, all staff tax codes for deducting tax were the same, under and over payment of tax letters are regularly received from HMRC and it is not known what end of year records are retained.

Labour councillor Kevin Cranney, chairman of Who Cares (NE), said the company has a service level agreement with MRA to provide the administration, including pay roll.

Coun Cranney said they have since implemented a new package for payroll and system of Real Time to ensure underpayments to HMRC do not occur again, while a council report said an accountant, Egglestones, has since been appointed to prepare its financial statements.

Coun Cranney said: “I have always known there has never been an issue regarding misappropriation of funds and the finances are always checked and double checked.

“This shows that there is nothing to hide, but there were issues around payslips which was sloppy and new and better systems are in place.”

The audit found between April 2012 and February 2013, the council paid Who Cares (NE) £324,287.30, of which £170,000 is received from the Clinical Commissioning Group while the company has also received funding from other sources of about £15,000, giving a total income of around £339,000.

All amounts have been verified and the bank balance is positive with around £178,000 spent on wages.

The connected care contract is currently up for tender after councillors raised concerns about the governance arrangements earlier this year.

Coun Cranney said applications have to be in by June 28 to run the service, which Who Cares NE is currently running on a monthly basis.

A council report, which identified “no concerns” around service delivery, will be presented to the audit and governance committee. Members will also discuss the audit report into MRA, which highlighted a catalogue of administrative concerns.

Officers concluded “no assurance” could be given to the procedures in place for MRA to manage council funds, but manager and town councillor Angie Wilcox has previously pledged changes have been made.

The committee will meet on Thursday, June 27 at 9.30am at the Civic Centre.