29 March 2012

Who is deciding our future council tax bills?

2 useful short planks or boards

Overseeing the huge outsourcing jamboree that is Development and Regulatory Services there is, finds Mr Mustard following FOI enquiries, a DRS Project Board made up of the following 8 people:

Pam Wharfe, Interim Director of Environment Planning and Regeneration
Craig Cooper, Director, Commercial Services
Martin Cowie, Assistant Director Planning
Ed Gowan, Assistant Director, Commercial Service
A N Other employee earning less than £58,200 p.a.
A N Other #2 employee earning less than £58,200 p.a.

2 are employed by the Council’s partners (i.e. employees of external companies). The Council does not hold information regarding their salaries. We are unable to disclose their names as this information is exempt under section 40(2) of FOIA. (Mr Mustard will be challenging the use of this exemption)

What is the role of the DRS project board? Mr Mustard does not actually know. He is going to put in for the terms of reference. Presumably they are making many decisions which will affect all of us for the next 10 years. If they cock it up we are all in trouble.

Mr Mustard is surprised that there are no councillors on the DRS Project Board and some resident's representatives would also be a good idea as it is their money that is being spent (in theory of course the councillors are our representatives but they seem to have abdicated almost all responsibility in favour of officers).

Mr Mustard has mentioned Ms Wharfe before. Her handling of the simple task of awarding a contract to remove parking meters was possibly the most botched job of 2011.

Craig Cooper has been mismanaging procurement for some years. The MetPro £1m+ was paid out during his watch. Craig told the audit committee that there were not any other similar cases and then along came RM Countryside and then Iris Gardening and then.....watch this space.

Mr Mustard is not filled full of confidence with the Board so far.

Mr Mustard does not know anything about Martin Cowie & Ed Gowan and expects that information will land in his inbox if there is anything interesting to say about them.

The two lower paid employees will at least know how their own processes work and better than the handle management will have.

What irks Mr Mustard is the 2 consultants who are playing a vital role in the outsourcing ( not likely to say don't outsource are they? ) and he is denied their names and there was an attempt to mislead him. Here are parts of the exchange.

Mr Mustard

Please tell me who the members of the DRS project board are giving their job title and name ( assuming they earn over £58,200 )

Mohsin Abbasi, Business Support Officer ( he doesn't seem very proud of his title as he never puts it ) One Barnet Programme Office

We have interpreted your request to mean “names and job titles of council employees on the DRS Project Board.” (Mr Mustard was not born yesterday and smelt a rat)

I confirm that there are eight members of the DRS project board. Four of whom are within the scope of your request i.e. earn over £58,200. Please see below their details (see above)

Mr Mustard

I would like to know the details of all people on the DRS project board no matter who pays them or who they work for please (apart from the 4 lower paid council staff that you mention) i.e. are there any consultants on the board?

Then he got the information which is above.

So Mr Abbasi made a ham-fisted attempt to hide the fact that there are two consultants on the Board. Mr Mustard will find out who they are and the rate their employer is paid in respect of their services.

This will be the fifth request for a review of an FOI answer this week which has come about as a direct result of the unsatisfactory answers of Mr Abbasi.

Now Mr Mustard is wondering about Mr Abbasi and whether he is himself a consultant? Next task, send in an FOI request about him. (Mr/Mrs/Miss/Master Mole may send the information sooner than it is available under FOI).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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