QUESTIONS were again raised over building security at Clackmannanshire Council last week.

Last week's Audit Committee meeting heard that the local authority's internal auditors can still only provide “limited assurance” over building security, including schools and care homes.

It came following a revelation last April, when elected members heard that staff probing the local authority’s security measures gained unauthorised access to eight out of a sample of 10 buildings.

These included two primary schools, which were never named.

At the time, councillors heard that internal auditors gained entry to buildings through unsecured doors, by bypassing reception, and by tailgating staff with valid passes.

Follow-up visits in November 2019 have shown improvement.

At that time, staff probing the council's own security gained access to three out of a sample of 10 premises.

A range of actions have taken place since the original report to raise staff awareness and vigilance.

Council leader Councillor Ellen Forson questioned local authority officers on the progress at the meeting last Thursday, December 3.

She said: “The only limited assurance is around building security across all directorates.

“I know this was raised as an issue last year, obviously, I would have been hoping that we would have moved on a wee bit from there.

“I'm just wondering what the issues are that we are still sitting at limited assurance.”

Limited assurance in the internal audit means that risk, control and governance systems have some satisfactory aspects.

It also means, however, that there are “some significant weaknesses likely to undermine the achievement of objectives and leave them vulnerable to an unacceptable risk of error or abuse”.

Responding to Cllr Forson, an auditor said: “We will be revisiting building security.

“We were supposed to do it in our audit plan this year, but obviously because of Covid we were not able to go out to buildings and do visits.

“But, it's not something we'll lose sight of and it will certainly be included in the future internal audit plan so that we can test that the revised arrangements that have been put in place are now operating - and operating effectively.”

Another council officer added: “The report is somewhat historic.

“Prior to Covid we were still working through a number of issues, it was getting better, it's one of these long-haul staff communication issues we were working on.

“But I have to say, since Covid it does feel like we are in a completely different place, probably because we've got less members of the public coming and going.

“We had a report at the risk and integrity forum yesterday that actually dealt with this issue, so it does seem that we are in a better place – a lot of it is to do with the Covid bio-security arrangements, but there are still issues even within that.

“Whilst things have improved considerably over the period of Covid, we are under no illusions that it's an ongoing area that we need to keep focus on.”