Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the city’s Lib Dems, has written to the board that regulates accountants asking it to look into the actions of the company in recent years.
Kemp has questioned why Grant Thornton, the city council’s external auditor, did not identify issues relating to how the council was being run prior to the arrests of several council staff and the publication of the damning Max Caller report earlier this year.
Among those arrested were former Mayor Joe Anderson and Liverpool City Council’s head of regeneration Nick Kavanagh.
All those arrested as part of Operation Aloft, the Merseyside Police investigation looking into corruption within the council, deny wrongdoing and no charges have been brought.
“One of the areas which has perplexed me for a number of years is the role of the external auditor in not finding out the many and obvious problems in the way that the council was being run,” Kemp wrote.
In a letter to Jenny Watson, the chair of the regulatory board for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Kemp asked for an investigation based on three possible conclusions:
- That Grant Thornton staff did not have an enquiring mind
- That [the company] did not have the capacity or perhaps competence to correctly overview the council and decide upon risk areas
- [The company] was happy to be guided by the then officers of the council into ‘safe’ areas for those officers.
Grant Thornton has been unable to sign off the council’s financial statements for the last five years due to ongoing police investigations.
A spokesperson for Grant Thornton said: “In line with their statutory obligations, the auditors have been unable to issue a certificate of completion for the council’s financial statements for the past five years (2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20), owing to complex and ongoing police investigations into financial irregularities which may have occurred in previous years. As the investigations remain ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”