A report has been prepared for a meeting of the Dorset Waste Partnership board, due to take place tomorrow, which considers the findings of several reports that reviewed its operations in the wake of the suspension of Partnership director Steve Burdis last week following a £2.8m overspend in its waste operations.
The report includes the findings of both the South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) and environmental consultancy, WYG, and aims to help the Partnership find a way to claw back the deficit whilst identifying the reasons for the overspend, the majority of which will borne by Dorset, with all partner authorities having to find significant sums of cash.
One of the key areas under investigation is the decision of the Partnership to stop buying vehicles and begin hiring them. In its report, SWAP concludes: “There are serious weaknesses in the financial management processes operating at DWP, and a lack of controls in place around hiring vehicles. Of more concern is the fact that many of these issues were known to staff for many months, but there was ineffective escalation either by the service or by finance to resolve them.”
In its report, WYG stated: “Until some relatively recent changes, we have found precious little evidence of robust processes to manage finances within the business. Clearly there are some business processes in existence which, for example, measure the volumes of waste arisings or which underpin the day-to-day service delivery (otherwise the collection service would not be reliable); but we believe that such regular monthly meetings that have been held at a senior management level to review budgets, do little to analyse expenditure variances and identify measures that need to be taken to deliver expenditure within budget.
“We understand that under the current financial systems, monthly figures are not produced for the first three (or sometimes four) months of the financial year: we believe that this is entirely unacceptable for an organisation with many transactions each day which need careful monitoring in order to effectively manage the budget.”
Staff costs are also high up the list of reasons for the overspend, along with a drop in recyclate income.
WYG did outline some positive of the Doreset Waste Partnership operation too, however, adding: “It is clear to us that DWP has achieved much in terms of rolling out a new service that diverts significant volumes of waste from landfill; which has (generally, in comparison to other roll-outs) been rolled out relatively smoothly and quickly (notwithstanding some recent problems in Weymouth & Portland); and which is popular with residents.
“The rapid increase in the recycling/composting rate and in the diversion from landfill is something not achieved at such a scale and pace elsewhere: other collection authorities have, either singly or in simple partnerships of two or three collection authorities achieved such a change, but the scale in DWP is rather different. Further, there are clear benefits to a standardisation of service across such an area which are not often seen elsewhere.”
The findings of all 3 reports, and the report as put forward to the Dorest Waste Partnership board, is available here