Brighton and Hove council audit flags concerns about conflicts of interest

Posted On 21 Jan 2014 at 10:25 pm

All members of the Brighton and Hove City Council’s senior leadership team will be asked to submit a declaration of interests, gifts and hospitality every year.

The council’s head of law Abraham Ghebre-Ghiorghis said that compliance was improving.

And he said that more publicity was being given across the council to the need to declare possible conflicts of interest as well as gifts and hospitality.

His remarks followed the presentation of a report to the council’s Audit and Standards Committee at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Tuesday 21 January).

Internal audit manager Mark Dallen gave a limited “assurance opinion” – the same as last year – after looking at the system for ensuring that officials declared an interest or gifts and hospitality.

A limited verdict suggests weaknesses in the system of control and / or the level of compliance.

Jugal Sharma

Jugal Sharma

Guidance to committee members said: “Controls are considered to be insufficient with the absence of at least one critical or key control.

“Failure to improve control or compliance will lead to an increased risk of loss or damage to the council.

“Not all major risks are identified and / or being managed effectively.”

The report was presented a matter of weeks after the suspension of a senior housing official, Jugal Sharma, was reported, although his suspension was not mentioned during the meeting.

Questions have been asked about whether Mr Sharma made full and timely declarations of interest.

Friends of Mr Sharma have made clear that he denies any wrongdoing.

His suspension followed an internal audit. The matter has been handed to Sussex Police to investigate.

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