5 August 2011

Rot at the Top

Mr Mustard has spent some time enquiring into the financial arrangements of Halliford Associates Ltd the service vehicle of Mr Andrew Traversty the Deputy Chief Executive and Statutory 151 Finance Officer.

Now one would of course expect that the person at the top of the financial tree in a Local Authority would set an example and be a properly registered employee under Pay As You Earn tax regulations. Who could possibly be more of an employee than an Officer of such rank? Not a bit of it.

Should Mr Mustard remind you that his bill is for £1,000 a day? No, because you aren't likely to forget such a nice large round figure. Now for 230 days work a year, a typical number of working days for management, i.e. 44 weeks in the year, £230,000 of our hard earned money will be paid to Halliford / Travers. 

Now Mr Travers started his illustrious career at Barnet Council on 12 April 2010 and the contract runs until one party decides enough is enough and gives a months notice. So it is easy to see that the Contract for services should have been advertised in the OJEU ( Official Journal of the European Union ) and at that point other candidates may have appeared.

It was back on 2 May that Mr Mustard sent in an FOI request as follows :-

Dear Sirs

The following payments have been made to Halliford Associates in 11 months:-

14/05/2010 5000257036 15,000.00
14/06/2010 5000260724 17,500.00
19/07/2010 5000265063 17,000.00
27/08/2010 5000270501 21,500.00
04/10/2010 5000274788 9,000.00
03/11/2010 5000279037 19,000.00
10/11/2010 5000280218 15,500.00
08/12/2010 5000283785 19,500.00
05/01/2011 5000286340 16,500.00
14/02/2011 5000291645 18,500.00
10/03/2011 5000295927 16,000.00

Please tell me for each item:-
  • who supplied the service
  • the start date of the service
  • the end date of the service
  • the number of days
  • the daily rate
and details of any other payment not based upon daily rates.
I note that this contract exceeds the threshold for EU Tender regulations of £156,442
Was the contract tendered please and if not will it now be tendered ?

Mr Johnathan Schroder the Internal Communication Manager was passed this request to answer. Not sure why as he handles internal communications and Mr Mustard has rather horribly said he has a non-job and yet he thinks that Mr S is an OK person but you get too much of my money Mr S so you will have to take a bashing; its not personal. Its the job not you I am attacking. Anyway, back to normal. As you are writing to Mr Mustard and not answering the question you will now have to be known as the External Misinformation Officer. Here is the reply of 2 June ( yes it was hung out for the maximum 20 days ). Mr S used very small type; perhaps in the hope that Mr Mustard could not read it properly ?

who supplied the service
Halliford Associates Ltd were contracted to fill the post of Acting Deputy Chief Executive and Statutory Finance Officer as part of a restructure of the Corporate Senior Management Team. The person filling that post was Andrew Travers.

the start date of the service
12 April 2010
the end date of the service
31 March 2011

the number of days
the daily rate
The daily rate is £1,000. The number of days worked are billed for a month in arrears (ie. 17 days were worked in June 2010).

and details of any other payment not based upon daily rates.

No other payments have been made.

I note that this contract exceeds the threshold for EU Tender regulations of £156,442

Was the contract tendered please and if not will it now be tendered ?
The council entered discussions with its managed service provider Hays at the end of 2010 in order to consolidate agency staff and interims under the terms of the Hays contract. As we have already formally tendered the managed service contract with Hays we will not be required to go out for individual tenders for agency or interim staff. The new arrangements formally came into effect for the start of the 2011/12 financial year.

Now Mr Mustard is a bit of a stickler for detail and this answer seemed to be taking him up the wrong path so he asked some more questions on 2 June ( a bit quicker to move than the council are ) to make things clear - Mr Mustard being a fan of Plain English & plain answers

Dear Mr Schroder
I am sorry but I do not understand the part of your answer about tendering & Hays. Are you saying that Hays were contracted to find Mr Travers ? as you say Halliford Associates Ltd were contracted
and a FOI response from Ms Wilson Pointer on 25 May 2011 included the following :-
"In relation to the first part of your request I can confirm that Halliford Associates Ltd were contracted to fill the post of Acting Deputy Chief Executive and Statutory Finance Officer as part of a restructure of the Corporate Senior Management Team approved by the General Functions Committee on 5 August 2009. Please find attached a copy of the report on this subject that was submitted to General Functions Committee on that date. The decision to contract Halliford Associates was taken following a comprehensive recruitment process which failed to identify a suitable candidate."

i.e. the Contract to find Mr Travers was placed with Halliford Associates Ltd. Also the Contract was signed in the first half of 2010 as payments started in May 2010 and so what you write as happening in late 2010 with Hays does not appear to be at all relevant.

Please explain more clearly why the Council did not advertise in the OJEU the Contract with Halliford Associates Ltd as it is above the relevant threshold. Will this Contract now be tendered?

So Mr S then replied on 1 July - 20 working days of thinking were once again required.

Hays were not contracted to find and appoint Andrew Travers. Background to this post can be found in the committee papers regarding the restructure of senior management referred to below. As the conventional recruitment process to fill the post was not successful, Halliford Associates were contracted in April 2010 to fulfil the role on an interim basis.

The council came to an agreement with Hays at the end of 2010 to consolidate all interim and agency staff under the terms of Hays’ contract and this came into place for all interim and agency staff from the start of the current financial year. Given that the post of Deputy Chief Executive was already filled, Hays did not undertake a separate recruitment process.

All interim staff with the council are now managed under the terms of the Hays contract. This contract was agreed after a full procurement process, including OJEU.

Mr Mustard is used to being given the run around. He focuses on the goal and just plods on.

On the same day, not a month later, he wrote back to Mr S
Thank you for your email of today.
So if we take all of your comments about Hays away as they are not germane could you now please answer the original question, which was :

I note that this contract exceeds the threshold for EU Tender regulations of £156,442

Was the contract tendered please and if not will it now be tendered ?

An early response would be appreciated as you are well past the 20 day time limit for providing the information.

By some accident of timing, about 20 working days later, on 1 August, Mr Mustard's email inbox received another email from Mr S. 

Mr Mustard thinks it very likely that this sort of behaviour is going to see every officer who answers, or doesn't,  FOI requests on day 20 on the naughty step at the Information Commissioner's Officer because having been there before the ICO keep a close eye on Barnet Council's performance. What the legislation says is that FOI responses should be sent "promptly, but not later than 20 working days..." so you see the 20 days is not a target. If you have the information you should just send it rather than trying to frustrate the applicant ( it doesn't work in Mr Mustard's case anyway )

I can confirm that the role of Deputy Chief Executive (DCE) and Section 151 Officer (CFO) was not tendered. An executive search was completed by GatenbySanderson and the role was advertised in the Sunday Times and Times Online in October 2009.

So after searching for a normal employee at goodness knows what cost someone somewhere said "Oh I know a good bloke who can do this and then, as if by magic, Halliford Associates Ltd were contracted to find an employee and they by some bizarre coincidence realised that their Director Mr Travers was the man for the job. They didn't fancy him having to pay proper taxes under PAYE and so deal was cobbled together with one presumes non-stick Nick Walkley, as there was no-one else more senior than the Deputy Chief Executive for a service Company to be utilised. 

Unfortunately the cunning plan falls apart at this point as immediately it was decided that this would be a Contractor appointment the post should have been advertised as it was a contract subject to rules on procurement and not an employment which the Chief Executive has the power to deal with.

Sometimes people are too clever for their own good ( or not clever enough? )

So now we have a statutory finance officer who has been appointed in breach of the law. 

Mrs Angry is so right, we are in Broken Barnet.

What would a person of honour do? Yes, resign ( not you Mr S )

Oh, and Mr Mustard will be keeping as close an eye on you Mr S just as the Information Commissioner, HM Revenue & Customs and The European Union do on my blog.

Did Mr Mustard mention that one of his friends is a big city lawyer who specialises in contracts failure at local authorities. No! Well now you know.

Oh, and the Contract should now be tendered, should it not?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Excellent work, Mr M. We would all like to know more details, I am sure, of the candidates they claim to have dismissed as unsuitable after advertising the post originally. The excuse of not being able to fill posts this way and then being obliged to use expensive 'interim' contracted staff must be challenged by tax payers. It's our money being thrown about, after all.Pro rata Travers earns more than his boss: quite an achievement - oops, sorry, I can't spell the word either ...

  2. Now Mrs Angry how silly do you think non-stick Nick is ? You have forgotten P65 of the Draft Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2011 ( I know maths is not your strong suit ) and his £49,842 pension scheme contribution which Mr Travers does not get, so that made a total for non-stick of £250,818 for the year.

  3. hmm: not sure if I do have a strong suit, in fact. I am, however, deeply moved by what you say about poor Mr Travers not having a pension. I can only foresee for him a bleak old age, eked out in the new One Barnet Workhouse, living on a diet of gruel. Excuse me, my eyes are blinded with tears ...


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