Experts arrive to provide independent scrutiny of city council

Harvard Business School graduate Stephen Gregory and civil engineer Ramone Johnson will receive no allowance or remuneration for overseeing Liverpool City Council’s audit procedures. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool City Council
From left, Cllr Kris Brown with audit committee advisers Stephen Gregory and Ramone Johnson

 

A Harvard Business School graduate and a civil engineer have stepped forward to provide independent financial scrutiny of Liverpool City Council’s auditing and governance procedures.

In March, the damning Max Caller report into the Governance of the development functions at the city council uncovered a “dysfunctional culture” at the council and “a picture of mismanagement” and “a breakdown of scrutiny and accountability”.

This has led to the arrival of Government-appointment commissioners to overseeing the authority’s highways and property functions. When she was elected Mayor in May, Joanne Anderson said: “I want Liverpool to have the best accountability and transparency structures in the country.”

In July the authority said it was seeking experts to provide independent scrutiny and, on Monday, it said Stephen Gregory and Ramone Johnson would sit on the city’s audit committee as co-opted independent technical advisers.

The committee provides an independent and high-level focus on the council’s audit, assurance and reporting arrangements. The independent advisers will receive expenses but no allowance or remuneration.

It also reviews of the council’s governance, risk management and control frameworks, and oversees the financial reporting and annual governance processes and develops, maintains and monitors the codes of conduct for councillors and co-opted members.

Mr Gregory graduated in economics from the University of Liverpool and later attended Harvard Business School. He  was a partner at Ernst & Young from 1995 until 2016 and led the financial services risk practice across Europe for eight years.

A civil engineer by trade Ramone Johnson previously worked for Arup as a senior project manager on schemes including the remediation of Liverpool Festival Gardens and the Manchester Clean Air Zone. He is currently a senior consultant and project manager at a global built environment consultancy firm.

“I’ve spent my career advising large firms on corporate governance and business assurance and I feel that I’ve helped them improve their processes significantly, “said Mr Gregory. “I’ve worked with audit committees and risk committees and I want to be able to do the same for the council.”

And Mr Johnson added: “I applied for this role to further help Liverpool City Council with navigating through a tricky situation. I understand that at its core that it is a very good organisation and, by joining the committee, I hope to get it back on course.”

Cllr Kris Brown, chair of the audit committee, also said: “These roles are a key part of making the council’s scrutiny procedures as strong as they possibly can be and I am delighted with the quality of the appointments we have made.

“We want the members of the audit committee to be getting the best possible advice, enriching their ability to scrutinise the organisation, and Stephen and Ramone will help us do that.”

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