2 June 2011

MetPro and Barnet Council: contract failures call One Barnet Programme into question

On 16th June the Audit Committee of Barnet Council will meet to discuss the findings of its audit of the circumstances surrounding the MetPro Rapid/Emergency Response scandal. The signatories of this statement believe that, while it is far from a suitable way to address the issues raised, the audit is likely to expose shortcomings in Barnet Council’s ways of working that will lend force to our call for a full, independent investigation into the Council’s relationship with the MetPro companies.

Those responsible for the failure to regulate the Council's relationship with MetPro are in many cases the same people assisting with the review. As such they have a vested interest in the outcome. We believe that this review is therefore not likely to be sufficiently objective, however useful its findings might be. 

Despite assurances from Lord Palmer we are not satisfied that the audit will cover all the problems revealed by the MetPro case, particularly those pertaining to breaches of residents’ data protection rights and their potential exposure to harm through contact with inadequately regulated security staff.

Furthermore, we believe that the MetPro case proves conclusively that there is systemic failure in Barnet Council’s purchasing and vendor management systems and processes.

Given this, we believe that it would be grossly negligent to allow a major outsourcing programme such as the One Barnet Programme to proceed.

We suspect that, far from being an isolated case, the irregularities in the Council’s relationship with the MetPro companies are likely to be an indication of serious mismanagement on a much larger scale. We call for a full investigation not only into the general process of contract tendering and allocation but also into the role played by respective responsible Directors. Our own investigations so far suggest that this would result in major cost savings for Barnet Council and Barnet Council taxpayers.

With regard to the MetPro audit, we have identified the following significant areas of concern and we ask the audit committee to address these questions:

1. Does your audit review show failings that have been identified and reported to the Council officers previously by Internal Audit ?
For example, the Head of Internal Audit reported to the Audit Committee (29 September 2009, Item 8, pages 30-31) that the then Director of Major Projects (Mr Craig Cooper) had confirmed that an effective spend analysis monitoring and monthly vendor monitoring processes were in place. See link below to access the report:

2. Did the Directors agree to take actions to address reported failings ?

3. Did the Directors fail to take actions to address reported failings ?

4. Why did the Directors not take actions when they were supposed to ?

5. What will the Audit Committee do to stop recurrence where Directors fail to address reported failings on time ?
On the wider subject of the systemic failings of Barnet Council, we ask that the CEO Nick Walkley immediately institute the following measures:
I.      A moratorium on all One Barnet Programme work, until such time as system failings can be shown to have been addressed.
II.     A full investigation into the tendering process and the role played by the relevant responsible directors.
III.    A review of the payment process including any transaction where purchase order was raised after receipt of an invoice.
IV.    A process where all retrospective purchase orders are sent to executive level for sign off and review.
V.     A full review of the democratic oversight process, to ensure that similar serious irregularities cannot occur in future.
As concerned residents we believe that these measures will go some way toward restoring public confidence in Barnet Council and, moreover, will save the taxpayers of Barnet a significant amount of money.
We ask all Councillors, regardless of Party affiliation, to support all of the above measures.

Letter to Councillors signed by:

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

1 comment:

  1. Councils just don't have what it takes to negotiate with private companies. That's why it's easy for private companies to take advantage of them. Like taking candy from a baby. All a private company has to do is massage the egos of councillors and council staff by letting them think they are part of the grown up world of business and they can persuade them to agree to anything. Throw in a few perks and hey presto a good deal for the private company but a very poor deal for the council. However, the individuals in the council responsible for agreeing the bad deal don't care because they are in a position to bury the problem and if they can't it is not them who has to pay the piper it's the local taxpayer or front line staff.


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