A council will hold a review into how it manages contracts after a damning internal audit identified most staff dealing with them “do not fully understand their roles and responsibilities”.

The audit report into the Denbighshire council’s management of contracts also said no one within the authority had responsibility for making sure rules were adhered to.

The study gave a “low assurance”, meaning there were “significant weaknesses in management of risks and/or control that put achievement of objectives at risk”.

It is the second lowest rating for an internal audit out of four classifications, the council’s governance and audit scrutiny committee heard.

The report found systems for recording the myriad of contracts the council manages were not being used and meetings were not being recorded.

The study, authored by chief internal auditor Lisa Lovegrove, said: “Overall ownership of contract management across the organisation is unclear, with no one overall responsible for driving organisation-wide contract management performance, consistent arrangements and adherence to Contract Procedure Rules (CPR).

“Our overall opinion is that contract management is not being managed well within the council.”

She added: “Some staff very much rely on ‘on the job training’ and some staff didn’t know of contract procedure rules.

“There was a lack of central responsibility within the council for how contract management was carried out.”

The report concluded: “Services, in the main, are not complying with contract

management requirements often with little or no contract monitoring taking place.

“In general, outcomes are not being reported and performance measures are not being quantified.”

The findings were described as “worrying” by Cllr Martyn Holland, who represents Llanarmon-yn-Ial/Llandegla ward.

He said: “This is a critical audit. It is so important for our organisation as we have so many contracts.

“It is worrying that minuting of meetings is not happening.

“At the end of the day there should be some training on this. It was worrying when I read this report.

“We ask people to do work for us and it’s important we get this right.”

The audit found a host of problems in a ll but a couple of departments. The report said:

*In general, staff do not fully understand their roles and responsibilities

*Key contract management information is not maintained

*Monitoring meetings are often not being documented

*Outcomes are not being reported

*Signed contracts were difficult to locate because service based contract

*management registers did not have the functionality to upload a copy

For those services using the council’s specialist contract management system, there is the facility to save a signed contract within the system, but this is not being used by the majority of services

Staff surveyed indicate that a lack of training on the contract management module is the main reason

No corporate contract management training has been provided to staff in recent years and, as a consequence, staff have relied on “on-the-job” training

We noted only two service areas had produced a contract management training manual, but both manuals had not been revised for several years

Staff were not fully aware of the council’s Contract Procedure Rules – resulting in non-compliance in a number of cases

The level of monitoring carried out by the services around contract management is inconsistent, ranging from no evidence being recorded through to agendas being produced, minutes taken and the closing contract meeting being held

There was supposed to be an action plan righting wrongs in the report which was circulated in January this year.

However it emerged this hadn’t been actioned because the lead officer in charge had been busy with Covid-19 planning.

Councillors agreed a new action plan should be formulated and brought back to scrutiny by November.

A spokesman for Denbighshire County Council said: “We recognise the importance of contract management to the Council and there are numerous areas where there is good practice.

“Due to a number of external factors, including issues arising from the coronavirus outbreak, we have not been able to fully implement all of the new procedures from the original action plan as of yet.

“This will not stop those actions which have already been implemented, or those in the process of being implemented, being taken forward.”