EICC board to 'imminently' introduce register of interests after Edinburgh councillors raise governance fears

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre will "imminently" draw up a register of interests for board members after councillors raised issues over the governance of the company, which is owned by the city council.

Friday, 8th November 2019, 6:00 am
The Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Credit Steven Scott Taylor.
The Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Credit Steven Scott Taylor.

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) will introduce a formal register of interests for board members “imminently” after councillors raised concerns over the governance of the company – including a potential risk over “inaccurate or fraudulent journals”.

The EICC, which is owned by Edinburgh City Council, was subject to an external audit which found “no material issues affecting the company’s ability to continue” – but set out an action plan to ensure better management.

The audit actions point out “there is a risk that inaccurate or fraudulent journals are posted to the ledger” while recommending that the “EICC should ensure that authorisation of manual journals is formally documented”. The report adds that “there are no formal registers of interests held for the EICC’s executive directors or key management”.

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The annual report revealed that in 2018, the EICC made £1,360,125 of gross profit, £756,135 after tax – as well as scooping a host of awards. The annual report acknowledged that “the company has lost business, and will lose business in the future, as a result of Brexit and the uncertainty surrounding its implementation”. But the directors “believe that such losses will be compensated for by securing increased levels of business from the UK, America and the Far East.”

The council’s housing, homelessness and fair work committee considered the audit as part of the EICC’s annual report. Councillors called for reassurances that the correct governance was in place and processes were being followed properly. The EICC’s chief executive, Marshall Dallas, was unable to attend the meeting due to “other business matters”.

Green Cllr Claire Miller said: “It’s really good there’s so many areas where the auditors have not had anything to highlight. I am a bit worried about things that are highlighted about registers of interests, identifying related party transactions and governance arrangements.

“It feels like those three areas are similar in terms of actually governance and controls and our certainty over the way the EICC board is functioning. Why were they already not doing these things? They feel like standard practices – and I don’t know why they wouldn’t have been in place. I’m not sure where we’ve got into a state where that’s happened.”

Cllr Kate Campbell, convener of the housing, homelessness and fair work committee, quit her position on the board of the EICC in February after believing the EICC’s interests were coming into conflict with the council’s priorities.

She said: “There are a couple of things which I find ever so slightly concerning in what has come back in the audit actions.

“This is an arms-length organisation. We are responsible here for having oversight. How can we get confidence for the next audit process that these things are being properly addressed? I feel like we should have proper oversight over these things.”

The company confirmed that all board members will provide a register of interests and highlighted that the audit found “no findings of inaccuracy or impropriety”.

An EICC spokesperson said: “Registered interests for all elected board members are available through the City of Edinburgh Council website, while the EICC is actioning a formal register of interests that will also include executive and non-executive directors and will be completed imminently. In addition to this, point one of every EICC board meeting agenda is to check on any conflicts of interest relating to the agenda.

“The board is not concerned by any audit action as there were no inaccuracies identified by the independent auditor who stated that the accounts represented a true and fair representation of the company’s affairs.”

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