Wales Audit Office’s reports’ delay ‘disturbing’Posted: March 17, 2015
By Paul Martin
The delay in publishing two high-profile reports by the Wales Audit Office has come under fire.
The watchdog is examining the Welsh government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport and a multi-million pound land sale by Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales (RIFW).
Tory AM Byron Davies says he is “disappointed” neither has been published.
The WAO plans to deliver the airport paper in June and the other in July.
Its investigation into Cardiff Airport is looking at whether the government’s decision to buy it for £52m represented value for money.
The WAO is also analysing the airport’s overall performance.
Its fieldwork for the report started last March and it had hoped to publish its findings by the end of 2014.
But it blamed the delay on “resourcing pressures”.
RIFW had been set up to invest in the regeneration of town centres and was funded by European and Welsh government money.
The WAO’s probe is looking into the sale of 16 parcels of publicly-owned land which were sold for about £20m by the fund and there are concerns they could have generated much more for the taxpayer.
The watchdog is focusing on the decision to sell the sites privately rather than by a public auction – and the findings were supposed to be published in 2013.
But now it says audit work has been completed and it is “currently confirming the factual accuracy of our findings with each of the parties concerned”.
A spokeswoman for the WAO said the RIFW investigation has been “a particularly complex project but we anticipate publication of the auditor general’s report before the start of the National Assembly summer recess in July”.
BBC Wales understands the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is still looking into the matter.
The SFO said it can “neither confirm nor deny” its interest in RIFW.
Former RIFW board member Chris Holley told BBC Wales last year RIFW had “done nothing wrong” and had followed “the guidelines and the rules”.
AMs are due to question representatives from the WAO about the reports in a private session of the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday.
Mr Davies AM said: “I’ve always had the highest regard for the leadership of the Wales Audit Office and the calibre of the people working there.
Mr Davies said he is ‘disturbed’ by the slow progress
“But I have to say, things have slowed up.
“And I really am disturbed the RIFW report has taken this long to be published and there’s no date as to when it might appear.”
Mr Holley added: “We are currently checking all the facts that have been put in the report. When that is done we will send it back and they will publish it.
“It has been an extremely difficult and complex issue.
“This has not been as easy as certain people have made it out to be.
“It has taken a great deal of time to understand all the questions.
“That is why this investigation has taken so long.”
Sourced from BBC Wales