Audit expresses concern over inadequacy of Council’s fixed asset register

Galway Advertiser,

Councillors have called on Galway City Council to “get it together” and draw up an accurate register of fixed assets throughout the city after an independent audit report expressed concerns over the inadequacy of the registration progress.

The statutory audit report included a balance sheet which shows net assets at €1.2 billion as of December 31, 2012, with fixed assets of €1.16 billion. In her report, which was presented to councillors on Monday evening, local government statutory auditor Mary Keaney said she had concerns regarding the “adequacy of the registration of the property assets owned by Galway City Council and the inadequate manner in which fixed assets are recorded in the books of the council”.

She recommended that the council allocates adequate resources to address the issue as it is “clear from the lack of progress in relation to the assets highlighted since the 2009 audit report that the current system whereby individual sections manage their own property portfolio is not working”. The report went on to state: “Where adequate records of assets are not held, or where asset records are incomplete, there is a risk that assets may be inadequately insured or may be lost to the authority. The requested review of all the council’s assets and the associated asset records, including the registration of title, needs to be carried out prior to the next audit.”

According to city manager Brendan McGrath work has been on-going to rectify the situation since 2009 and progress has been made to date. He said: “In 2011/2012, the fixed asset register was reconciled to the housing database and the insurance register. A database of art works was developed and this is currently being reconciled to the insurance and asset registers. The registration of title to assets is ongoing and the council is currently examining proposals regarding centralising the management of the property portfolio.”

Cllr Peter Keane (FF) expressed his concern describing as “absolutely unacceptable” the fact that there is no Central Register of Fixed Assets owned by the council. Cllr Keane warned that this raises serious insurance issues for the council in circumstances where instances of trespass and adverse possession were now occurring on city council property.

In response to the city manager’s claim that depleting resources were a contributing factor, Cllr Keane called for the immediate introduction of an internship scheme for Galway City Council where adequately qualified individuals seeking experience in the administration of local Government could be recruited to assist in freeing up qualified staff to attend to urgent issues identified in the report. Cllr Keane confirmed this process would not offend the Government’s continued persistence in the recruitment embargo in the public service, but would provide a solid platform for those persons presently unemployed who are interested in working in local government. He added that schemes such as Job Bridge and Tus as perfect opportunities for success in an internship programme.

Other councillors including Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) and Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) also condemned the delay in a proper register being completed. Cllr Terry O’Flaherty said that it was time for the council to identify all its lands throughout the city. She added that signs need to be erected so that people know what lands are owned by the council.

Director of service for finance and IT, Edel McCormack explained how the Better Local Government iniative meant that all responsibility for the register of assets was devolved and the register wasn’t kept up to date. She added that the council is “trying to re-centralise it and create a unique asset register”.

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