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Auditors Raise Questions Over Way Thanet Council Used EU Money for Port of Ramsgate

Posted on May 19, 2016

By Paul Francis, KentOnline

Government auditors have recommended there could be a criminal investigation into fraud allegations about dredging at the Port of Ramsgate.

The allegations concern funding the council received from the EU for a joint project between Ramsgate and Oostende port in Belgium to improve the capacity by dredging Ramsgate and building a new berth at Oostende.

The funding came from the European Rural Development Fund (ERDF) Managing Authority, covering a three-year period between 2005 and 2008.

The funding was supposed to pay for new dredging but a whistleblower reported that much of the money was spent on routine dredging.

An investigation by the Government Internal Audit Agency said: “Evidence was provided which showed Thanet District Council staff were aware the works required under the conditions of the funding had not been carried out and on receipt of ERDF grant set this aside in case a repayment was required; subsequently this was re-allocated to the Port of Ramsgate budget.”

They said the accounting treatment of the ERDF grant was unusual as it was received in March 2008 and June 2009 but remained on the balance sheet until credited to ‘services 2009-10’.

“We were informed that Thanet District Council’s finance function were not sure how to account for the grant,” the report said.

The report recommends that the ERDF Managing Authority consider reporting the matter to the police as a potential fraud case.

“There is sufficient evidence in our view of intent to defraud,” it concluded.

In a statement, Thanet council said: “The council has been working closely with the Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA) since being approached in October 2015. The council ensured that the GIAA had access to all the information required and have answered any questions.”

It added: “The grant claim was made over eight years ago. Since then, the council has introduced new processes and procedures within its finance function; including the introduction of a dedicated External Funding Officer and the implementation of an External Funding Protocol which was recently updated in June 2015.”

“The council has also commissioned an independent review by East Kent Audit Partnership to assess the internal controls in respect of externally funded projects. In accordance with council policy, although there is no evidence of fraud, the matter has also been referred to Kent Police.”

Source: KentOnline

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