23 July 2013

Second objection to Accounts - One Barnet implications

It seems that the External Audit of local authorities relies so much on trust these days (not like the old days where everything was checked and reconciled within an inch of its life) that a mere 6 figure overcharge by a supplier doesn't appear on the radar of external auditors, nor the internal ones come to that.

Fortunately armchair auditors don't sleep much and they spot stuff that is wrong and raise it with the external auditor who will probably find a convenient carpet to sweep it under, although Mr Mustard would be delighted to see Mr Paul Hughes prove him wrong. Here is Mr Mustard attempting to save council tax payers a collective £137,343

23 July 2013

Mr P Hughes
Grant Thornton
Melton St

Dear Mr Hughes

The London Borough of Barnet
Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2013
Second Notice of Objection

I refer to the parking enforcement contract with NSL. It contains KPI that lead to a number of "bit" payments each and every month. There is a chart which explains the way in which the bits work included in the contract. Put simply the KPI payment, or deduction, is, after the first two months, never static. The bits start at +2 in months 1 & 2 to allow time for the contract to settle down and then month 2 performance provides the basis of payment in month 3. If targets are achieved then payment goes up one bit, if not, it comes down one bit. It never stays the same unless it is at +6 or -6 bits.

If bits fall below zero, then 2 bits are deducted each month going down to -6 at the worst.

I asked to see the actual KPI measurements for the entire period. I have been informed in an email from Mark Taylor that NSL have not met its KPI targets, and bits must therefore reduce. There was a deduction of one bit for one month which proves what I say but after that the matter has not been pursued. This is wilful misconduct and the council have overpaid the contract value by £137,343 (in round pounds) according to my attached calculations which should be the object of consideration by you under section 8 of the Audit Commission Act 1998.

A copy of this Notice of Objection has been sent to Mr C Naylor and to Cllr Monroe Palmer, Baron Palmer of Child's Hill, OBE, FCA.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

Now there are implications for One Barnet contracts with Crapita. This NSL contract is tiny compared to NSCSO & DRS and relatively simple to manage. Scale up this lack of management and the failure to hold the contractor to account when 25 times as much money is involved and you would be looking at a loss to council tax payers of more like £3million, which would wipe out lots of those juicy aspirational savings and be a real loss to boot. 

This is why Mr Mustard is opposed to the big One Barnet contracts (and the parking one due to loss of control). It is because the council management simply don't have the ability in procurement or commissioning, the vision, the flexibility, the manpower, the organisational skills, the desire or the tenacity (unlike those pesky bloggers) to properly manage and enforce the contracts that they have signed.

NSL is our very own Serco / G4S mess.

Mr Mustard fully expects a mention in the 2013 Armchair Auditor Awards (oh no, they don't exist as we work for free and don't have council tax payers money to pour down the drain on self aggrandising vanity awards nights out in Park Lane; a pint in the Black Horse it is then, much more fun).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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