18 October 2011

FOI 1043 - CCMPS

Let us continue with Mr Mustard's FOI requests.

This was another very simple request, for just one item, and look what a meal the council made of it. This table records the various steps that had to be taken.

Summary of steps taken on FOI 1043
Step Date From To What ?
1 13-Jun Mr M foi@barnet Request for copy CCMPS contract
2 14-Jun LBB Mr M Acknowledgement
3 23-Jul Mr M LBB Reminder to reply
4 23-Jul LBB Mr M Out of office
5 23-Jul Mr M foi@barnet Reminder to reply
6 08-Aug LBB Mr M Answer promised for 22 August
7 18-Aug Mr M LBB Expressing dismay at time to reply
8 18-Aug LBB Mr M Out of office
9 22-Aug LBB Mr M Reply received - sort of
10 22-Aug Mr M LBB Queries reply received
11 22-Aug LBB Mr M Acknowledgement
12 20-Sep LBB Mr M Further reply with DPR & Order

So what did Mr Mustard want to see - a copy of the contract for the services of Chris Malyon, the Assistant Director of something or other, oh yes, that's it, the AD of Commercial Services, previously of Capita ( what's that Mrs Angry - conflict of interest during a period of intensive outsourcing activity - possibly if only accidentally - old school tie and all that ). Mr Mustard has just noticed that Mr Malyon called himself the AD of Commercial Services but the council's paperwork says he was the AD of Commercial Assurance - what hope if there when an AD can't even get his own job title correct?

Mr Mustard always thinks that he will get his simple requests, like this one, answered by return of post, but he never does.

Step 1 : Mr Mustard asked for an unredacted copy of the contract as he knew that the daily pay rate was £650. Given the huge number of consultants at Barnet Council he thought that there would be a "fill in the gaps" contract and he would simply be sent a copy of it. Too easy!

Step 2 : Usually an acknowledgement gets issued within a day or two.

Step 3 : As the reply was overdue Mr Mustard sent a polite reminder. It said "Dear FOI, This reply is overdue, yours sincerely"

Step 4 : Mr Mustard received a reply by return. Unfortunately it was an out-of office reply. Here it is  ( Mr Mustard has decided to spare the blushes of the procurement manager involved by not using their name but their performance has been dismal - only a 2/10 )

I will be out of the office on annual leave 25 July to 5 August 2011. I will not be able to access emails during this time but will respond/action asap thereafter.

Should you have a clarification relating to Dollis Valley Regeneration please forward this to barnet@4projectsmail.com copying dollisvalleyregencd@barnet.gov.uk.

If you have a clarification regarding Granville Road NW2 please forward this to granville.road@barnet.gov.uk

If your query relates to procurement please forward this to 
Colin Attree email: colin.attree@barnet.gov.uk 020 8359 7194 or 
Martyn Carter email: martyn.carter@barnet.gov.uk 020 8359 7267 or 
Nasreen Tayab email: nasreen.tayab@barnet.gov.uk 020 8359 3367 or 
Nadeem Ghani email: nadeem.ghani@barnet.gov.uk 020 8359 4558 or 
Caroline Pereira email: caroline.pereria@barnet.gov.uk 020 8359 7057

If your query relates to FOI - then tough ( Mr Mustard's addition to the response !).

Mr Mustard used to lead a team of 15 staff. He would never let them just set the out-of-office and expect the customer to do the running around. What should happen in a well run office? another staff member should have access to your emails and forward them on to whoever is delegated to answer them during your absence. This employee was away for 10 days. Barnet Council have a target that 85% of correspondence is to be answered within 10 days - this target is often missed and no wonder.

Step 5 : Mr Mustard simply resent the email, that was to a named contact, to the FOI department.

Step 6 : Mr Mustard wonders if there is a game that Barnet Council plays - "Who can get the most withering email from Mr Mustard" - Mr Mustard predicts that Cllr Thomas might well win next week ( for 2011 anyway ). This is the ridiculous reply that Mr Mustard received ( please consider that a proper response was already well overdue ) and which he has annotated in red

I have returned from annual leave today ( lucky you ) and note receipt of your follow-up email. As I do not hold this information ( I am not responsible ) and, as mentioned in my earlier email have a co-ordinating role in obtaining the information you request ( don't blame me for council incompetence, I am only a procurement manager), I will highlight that your request is now overdue and requires prompt attention ( Mr Mustard had already done that to foi@barnet.gov.uk and they did zilch ). Please be advised that it is estimated that information will be available for 22 August 2011 ( do you every get really mad when people write stupid things to you? ) this estimation has been based on overlapping annual leave commitments ( there is no commitment to service to the council tax payer ) if it is available earlier it will be released prior to that date. ( It is more likely that Cllr Brian Coleman will start catching the bus to council meetings ).

Step 7 : 10 days later, he was busy, Mr Mustard expressed his disappointment!

I am disappointed by your email of 8 August 2011.

You do not say which entire department is on holiday such that the 2 minute job of providing this contract, which I requested on 13 June, cannot be fulfilled.

Barnet Council per se does not go on holiday. It is the duty of Barnet Council to answer all requests promptly and within 20 working days. Barnet Council has already been on the watch list of the Information Commissioner in 2010 and it would appear that the council did not learn much from that episode.

I have not raised a formal complaint with the Information Commissioner but have sent them a copy of this email so that they can see the lack of dedication to dealing with even the most simple of requests.

Which was a much milder email than Mr Mustard had every right to send ( The Right Honourable Eric Pickles MP said that Mrs Angry had every right to be angry; if you should happen to bump into Cllr Thomas, Uncle Eric, could you give him a nudge in the right direction i.e. away from blabbing rubbish to the local papers and instead get him to sort out the council - thank you ) 

Step 8 : Mr Mustard received another out of office. Procurement has been a complete disaster ( MetPro didn't have a contract but did have £1.6m of our money for those who don't know ). Mr Mustard wonders if that is at all related to the managers seeming to be on one big holiday.

Step 9 : 22 August, as promised; better late than never.

Further to the email of 8 August 2011 please find attached the information which you requested in your earlier email of 13 June 2011. I am in receipt of your email of 18 August 2011 the contents of which are noted. ( I have noted = I have done nothing )
The information was an out of focus signed contract and a blank of what was supposed to be the same contract.
click to enlarge - back to return

So this is a contract between CCMPS & Hays, and there is a separate contract between Hays and Barnet Council which includes all consultants ( Mr Mustard has not yet asked to see this but probably will now )

Click on this contract to enlarge it and at the top right you will see that the imprint date is 01-10
On this page you see the date of signature of 23 May 2011. According to his linked-in page Mr Malyon started at Barnet in November 10 and yet the Delegated Powers Report to authorise his role was only signed on 15 February 2011. All very odd.

With his usual eye for detail Mr Mustard noticed that the imprint date on the blank contract was a different one ( 06/11 ) to the one on the signed version. Oh dear, completely irrelevant then and necessary to have the correct version. Evidently the un-named procurement manager didn't check it before sending it out as fact.
Looking at the sub paragraphs which start with a 2 there are 9 of them and on the signed version there are 10 sub-paragraphs starting with a 2.

At this point Mr Mustard would like to point out that the escalating time cost of answering this FOI request, which should have taken 2 minutes, was entirely caused by Barnet Council's labyrinthine & incompetent administrative machinations.

Anyway, faced with inconsistency Mr Mustard wrote again ( in case Barnet Council think they can bore Mr Mustard to death then please remember that his alter ego a debt collector and it was once necessary for him in his professional life to make over 150 phone calls on a certain subject to get the answer - he is not going to be put off by amateurish attempts to frustrate due process ) as follows:-

Step 10:

Thank you for your email of today.

I note that the signed Contract you have sent me has a version date at the top of 01-10 and the blank contract that you have supplied is the 06/11 version and so must be different. Please supply a clear copy of the 01-10 version.

I also note that the contract is dated 23 May 2011 and I see from the list of payments over £500 that payments were made to CCMPS in February 2011.

Was there a written contract which covered the period from February to May 2011?

If not, please say so.

if there was please provide a copy of the signed contract.

What fee is/was paid to Hays Specialist Recruitment Ltd in respect of the Contract(s) with CCMPS Ltd

Step  11 : another acknowledgement.

Thank you for your request received by us on 22 August 2011

This request has been raised with officers that hold information and/or response that you request. You are entitled to a prompt response which in any event should be sent within 20 working days from the date of receipt.

This response brought to mind the game that he sometimes sees on TV "The Million Pound Drop" whereby a confident contestant can "stop the clock". Barnet Council employees play their own version, where they try to waste a million pounds on wrong answers to FOI responses and they"start the clock" to get the 20 days running again. It was entirely wrong of you Procurement Manager ( you have done nothing for the reputation of the disgraced procurement section - Captain Cooper will be waving the ceremonial sword in your direction ) to start the 20 days off again as Mr Mustard had not asked a new question. He correctly queried that your earlier answer was incorrect. You should have been falling over yourself in your haste to correct a wrong answer.

Step 12 : The answers arrive.

Thank you for your request received by us on 22 August 2011 for the following information:Thank you for your email of today.

I note that the signed Contract you have sent me has a version date at the top of 01-10 and the blank contract that you have supplied is the 06/11 version and so must be different. Please supply a clear copy of the 01-10 version. We have been informed that the 06/11 version is the same as the 01-10 version, the version supplied was the clearest available.
I also note that the contract is dated 23 May 2011 and I see from the list of payments over £500 that payments were made to CCMPS in February 2011.

Was there a written contract which covered the period from February to May 2011? If not, please say so These payments were covered by Purchase Order 4400160882 purchase orders are a form of contract. Copy of purchase order attached for information. Authorisation for value of Purchase Order was provided by copy DPR attached for information.

if there was please provide a copy of the signed contract. As stated Purchase Order 4400160882 is a form of contract

What fee is/was paid to Hays Specialist Recruitment Ltd in respect of the Contract(s) with CCMPS Ltd The Hays charge for CCMPS, is £25.00 per timesheet. Timesheets are done on a weekly basis.
You may have been informed that the 06/11 version is the same as the 01-10 version but is it? Anyone who knows anything knows that at reprint time if changes are made the date is changed, otherwise the document is reprinted with the old date. Also if you had compared the two documents then you would have seen they were different, are you sure you are good enough to be a procurement manager, or did you just not care about your reply? 
"Purchase orders are a form of Contract". How very unamusing. Many man hours have been spent on the Procurement Action Plan, including by the Audit Committee. Action 2 says "Formal written contracts should be established for all services commissioned by the Council as required by the Contract procedure Rules." The task set was "Put in place contracts for all current spend for all vendors where spend exceeds £25k and no contract currently in place". The PAP doesn't say "a late issued purchase order will do the job of a contract nicely." The report to the Audit Committee of 6 September 2011, contributed to by Crapitain Cooper. Commercial Director and Mick Stokes, Assistant Director of Commercial Assurance, assured the committee that "For the purposes of preparing the corporate contracts register, the highest threshold test has been used to define a compliant contract: a contract that is signed/sealed by both parties is in existence and its location is known and it is available for scrutiny." Obviously back in February, before the pretty poor procurement practices were thrust into the spotlight by MetPro, things were different and a purchase order was better than no paperwork at all.

You need to study this DPR next ( you might want to print this entire post out to study it, see the icon at the bottom of the page )

as ever, click to enlarge; back to return

So this DPR was authorised on 15 February 2011 and yet somehow CCMPS were paid on 2 February 2011. The cart came before the horse, and before Crapitain Cooper's Ford Cortina!

Look at the Full Year Cost ( including on-cost ) that an employee would cost - £119,560 to £130,300 which makes one think that this is all that this DPR is sanctioning. Not so, we were so fortunate to get this bloke for 20% less than the agency rate, at the very unreasonable rate of £650 a day. So if we assume 220 days will be worked in a year ( 260 less 10 bank holidays and 25 days holiday less a few other odd days ) then the cost would be £143,000 which is quite a lot more than the salary scale. If you look now at the purchase order above it is for £145,000 so rather than being cheaper than an employee, he was much more expensive.

There are still some worrying aspects to this rigmarole.

Go back and take a look at the signed contract. It says "Generated by CamScanner from intsig.com"  which means that someone used an iPhone, or similar, to scan this document. If council staff, or Hays staff, are going around scanning documents using their phones ( no wonder it is such a poor scan ) then that leaves a great big hole in data protection at the council ( Mr Mustard wonders if the AD of Audit & Risk Management reads the blog ? you should read them all Mary-Ellen so you find out what is going on at the council - we are your free armchair auditors ). Barnet Council spent £202,000 on scanning software ( Wisdom EDMRS ) and has 5 scanners that each cost over £2,000 and so instead of using them some genius thinks he/she will take an out of focus picture with his/her mobile phone.

Why are Hays being paid £25 per week to process and pay the timesheets? Seems like an extra administrative step that isn't needed and isn't worth £1,000 p.a. 

So Cllr Thomas what do you think of that little lot? A lot more questions than answers and some doubtful dealings. Maybe you might like to spend your time finding out what goes on in the Council rather than moaning to the local paper about armchair auditors? 

If you haven't had enough yet there is lots more to come.

Send Mr Mustard your apology as soon as you like.

Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

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