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Planning department at Brent Council ‘open to fraud and bribery’

PUBLISHED: 16:17 19 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:17 19 January 2017

The report slammed Brent Council's planning department

The report slammed Brent Council's planning department

© Prospects Imaging

Brent Council’s planning department is open to fraud and bribery, it has been claimed.

A damning report compiled by auditors Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) has uncovered ‘significant weaknesses’ in the department.

The findings have been revealed following an internal audit by PWC on planning applications in the borough between January and August last year.

PWC assessors found no evidence of an anti-bribery risk assessment for the department or any anti-bribery training awareness for staff.

This could leave the council at risk of prosecuted under the Bribery Act 2010.

There were also no security measures in place to stop ex-employees from accessing the system which “could result in planning applications being approved inappropriately due to fraud or error”.

The report, commissioned by Brent Council, also highlighted that officers do not have to register their interests in the same way as councillors, which could “impact the planning process” and a blurred audit trail made it unclear at times about who was working on an application.

Cllr John Warren, leader of the Brent Conservative Group, said: “This report is a terrible indictment of the planning department and quite serious for people who had applications at that time.

“The planning application for Willesden Temple, is there anything there?

“There were lots of decisions made on Wembley Stadium. Were they dealing with it in a fair way?

“We don’t know. We don’t know what officers have done.

“The fact the council could have been prosecuted, raises serious questions. They can’t ignore it, hoping for the best, they need to reassure all applicants from that period.”

Last week the council’s audit committee met to discuss the findings which include the system being “highly susceptible to manipulation and abuse through inappropriate or fraudulent activity,” particularly from officers.

A spokeswoman for Brent Council said: “The internal audit was commissioned by the council as a part of our ongoing, and routine programme to review our services.

“We are confident that all planning applications were dealt with in a fair way but nonetheless given the recommendations in the report, we are tightening up our processes even further.”

Click here to read the full PWC report.

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