20 June 2011

Non-stick Nick speaks.

Each week the employees at Barnet Council wait with bated breath for the weekly missive from their Chief Executive ( please do not believe everything that you read on this blog ) telling them how fantastic things are in Barnet, even if they aren't.

For the last 2 weeks Mr Traversty has sent this missive at the probable cost of about £20 a word ( actually I am not even sure the management actually write them - there is probably a ghost writer hiding at NLBP somewhere, in the Speech Preparation Internalisation Network unit , or SPIN-u for short ) and at the end of last week's message he wrote :-

"We will announce plans next week on just how we propose to do this"

So here is this week's message, from non-stick Nick himself, fresh from his uncomfortable appearance in front of the Audit Committee, where he looked as hot and sweaty as a frying pan full of melted butter, ( watch out for the fire non-stick as the Barnet Bloggers are not about to turn the gas down low ) :-

Last night's Audit Committee meeting was, quite rightly, amongst the most difficult in my time as Chief Executive.

Alongside the Metpro report, which was dealt with in last week’s email, I attended to specifically respond to the Internal Audit Annual Report. This, like the Metpro Report, pulled no punches but is rather more important in the conclusions it draws about aspects of the council's work. Overall it gives only "limited assurance" that we have the right controls in place to ensure that we spend wisely and meet the objectives we set.

As I confirmed to the Committee its vital that we have the robust internal challenge that audit provides and for too long I do not think that has been the case. However equally important is that when we identify concerns we learn from the findings and act on them.

Members have an absolute right to expect that when we get things wrong we prioritise putting them right. Last night I committed us to addressing all of the issues raised by the Internal Audit Annual Report.

On procurement this means a rapid programme of activity that will involve many staff across the council. An action plan is in place and procurement leads across the council are being briefed.

Much media focus has been on "who is to blame" and "who is going to carry the can?". However my firm belief is that now is the time for all of us to ensure that the contractual arrangements and suppliers we depend on are documented, monitored and in place and where they are not take action to tackle this. There will be more about this process in First Team but now is the time to make sure any suppliers you use have been through the right process. Moreover if you are concerned about an issue or your own knowledge/skills in this area - speak up. This is a time to put things right and not simply point fingers.

A second strong theme in the report is our management of information. We have made really good progress on Data Protection over the last year but there are still instances of paper records in particular leaving the offices unnecessarily. Keeping adequate control is not just about the right system but also that everyone follows those systems and procedures. Across the council, information management and contract management are matters that the vast majority of us have a roll to play in.

Its an oddity of the role of Chief Executive that I find myself congratulating the Assistant Director for internal audit Maryellen Salter on the quality of her work whilst then having to challenge myself and the rest of the council to rise to the challenges that work gives us. But as custodians of public money that is exactly how it should be.


Now I expect that you have already been to the sites of other Barnet Bloggers today:-

Rocketing Roger Tichborne was first out of the traps 
Click here
and Mrs Angry of Broken Barnet was as witty & withering as usual
Click here
Now, this roll that you have to play non-stick Nick; would that be a cheese roll or a management role ? Oh dear.

So moving to more serious matters which the employees need to know about as they certainly won't have got the full picture from the Chief Exec's message:-

So last week Traversty said that plans would be announced and Mr Mustard was looking forward to reading them. Now non-stick Nick blithely says that "plans are in place". Oh what short memories you think we have. Please publish the plan or a Freedom of Information request will have to be made for it.

You forget to tell your staff what "Limited Assurance" means. Unless one read the definition one might think that it was almost OK. An Audit with Limited Assurance means :-
"Weaknesses in the system of internal controls are such as to put the client’s objectives at risk. The level of non-compliance puts the system objectives at risk."

i.e. the systems are pants ! and anything could be happening, as it was in the case of MetPro.
It also means management have not been doing their job, at every level, up to and including the Chief Executive.

Also, as well as paperwork going out of the building, non-stick Nick forgot to mention that Treasury were taking unencrypted laptops home that contained all of the bank details of the Council. Oh dear again, a complete data protection disaster, but evidently not worth a mention.

A good job I mentioned it then.
Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

keyword : Nick Walkley

1 comment:

  1. very good: but how did you do the flashing word - that's a first in Barnet blogland


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.