There have already been 3 audit reports on the meeting of the Audit Committee, if June was the MetPro audit committee, this one was the Elephant in the Room meeting ( when you go to them all it is helpful to give them names so that you can remember one from the next ). Reports have already been tabled by
Mrs Angry of Broken Barnet ( in a two parter as it was a long meeting )
Mr Mustard is just going to add odd snippets from his notes:
The external auditors have done very little work on the One Barnet outsourcing and not enough to form a view as to what state it is in. This is something that the key risks of One Barnet will be looked at along with Internal Audit in 2011/12 ( that is what Mr Mustard write but he starts to wonder if he meant to write 2012/13 as there are only 3 months remaining in 2011/12 ).
The Corporate Contract Register is a spreadsheet. Management by spreadsheet is well known as a bad way of doing things. Mr Mustard was recently sent a spreadsheet of S106 payments. There were lots and lots of lines, over 1000. What was immediately evident was that the spreadsheet was defective. Why? Well quite simply because the largest S106 Agreement in the country ( not that anyone at the council can tell me exactly how much it is worth ), the Brent Cross one, was missing from the spreadsheet and the officer who sent me the information obviously didn't look at what they were sending out.
The CAFT ( corporate anti-fraud team report ) was very interesting.
Operation Javelin – relates to a CAFT Financial investigation into an 'Abuse of Position' case where a staff member, a temporary council tax collection officer falsified computer records relating to a number of Barnet residents who had accrued large arrears in their council tax contributions. The officer contacted these residents and coerced them into paying him a percentage of the outstanding balance either by a cash sum directly to him or by supplying the victims with a bank sort code and account number for amounts to be deposited, which was his own account. CAFT conducted a full investigation and the staff member’s contract was ended and he was prosecuted. The defendant pleaded Guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. A work condition to complete 200 hours unpaid work was also imposed together with an order to pay £500 costs. During the investigation weaknesses were identified on both the recruitment of temporary staff and internal controls CAFT have provided recommendations on internal control to the service area in both these areas. It is evident that the council banged the stable door shut after the horse had bolted, having left the stable door wide open and with 50+ temps in Revenues & Benefits should have made sure that they were properly and closely supervised. Such an amateur fraud as this one should never have been allowed to happen. Who was looking at emails sent by this person? Anyone?
Operation Mirage – relates to a CAFT investigation into a security breach of the DWP’s CIS system by a member of Barnet’s Benefits team. The investigation revealed that a long standing member of Barnet had accessed restricted personal data. An evidence package was passed to the service area by CAFT and the staff member was subsequently dismissed. CAFT reported the action back to the DWP who where satisfied with the action taken, and also advised the service area on more stringent internal controls which have now been implemented. Oh dear, more lax controls.
Operation Montana - relates to an investigation in conjunction with the UK Border Agency, in respect of illegal workers gaining employment as cleaners via a Council cleaning contractor who service various Council buildings. Now this really evidences the dangers of contracting out. Barnet Council simply don't supervise contracts well enough.
A number of arrests were made and the individuals concerned were given reporting requirements by the UKBA whilst they fully investigated their status in the UK. The individuals were dismissed from the cleaning company. The UKBA then contacted the company and all remaining cleaning staff attending Council buildings were confirmed as having the right to work in the UK. Clang goes that stable door.
Operation Gremlin – relates to a previously reported partnership project with the UKBA. This was a proactive operation relating to the verification of identity documents supplied by employees in the Street Scenes Team, Environment and Operations Directorate. This project has now been completed and all staff in that team have now either been dismissed or have had their identity confirmed as being eligible to work in the UK. Were these employees not properly vetted by HR when they were taken on?
The Assistant Director of Audit & Risk Management had no idea how much Barnet Council data went outside of the EU and thought it might be irrelevant. Actually it's a big risk and she ought to do some work on it.
Jeff Lustig said that despite FOI requests being up by 80% on the same quarter of last year there would be an improvement in the answer rate by April 2012. We will hold you to that Mr Lustig. Mr Mustard still has plenty that are late or badly answered and then have to be followed up. It all depends on which person gets the job of answering, whether they are a process driven jobsworth or an enlightened professional ( Mr Mustard has the pleasure of dealing with both ).
Jeff Lustig agreed that the target for answering FOILustig, it's the way that the council is organised. You get 20 days to answer. the maximum time that you have to spend on an answer is 18 hours. Where is the problem?
The council computer systems are not being regularly patched because the services need to use them at a weekend. Best apply the patches between 1am and 6am then.
Craig Cooper, the Director of Commercial Services, £132,480 p.a. said there are no other cases like RM Countryside Services ( i.e. non-compliant contractors getting more work ) but that was based on what others have told him ( so is bound to be wrong - if unauthorised officers have been signing orders and/or contracts, as they have, then have you asked enough people? There are over 400 managers at Barnet Council ). Mr Mustard is in no doubt that this will look like a stupid statement before many months have passed.