26 August 2012

When black holes collide

Currently in the skies of Barnet
In the last fortnightly issue of Private Eye, which Pam Wharfe, the interim Director of who knows what, purchased only a week after the previous issue (note to employees in EPR, if you want a fortnight's holiday, just book one week and come back after two as Pam Wharfe's latest email about the JV shows she doesn't know a week from a fortnight) Mr Mustard turned straight to the Rotten Boroughs page as Barnet Council appear so often. Sadly, there are so many rotten councils that you need a top drawer story to get on the page (it says a lot for democracy and the abuse of power that Private Eye don't ever struggle to find enough stories to fill an entire page) and Barnet Council avoided further ignominy this week and were rather busy with the JV or not to JV issue. 

Anyway, opposite Rotten Boroughs in issue 1321 is Medicine Balls which are also a good read and not just for the medically qualified. You doubtless have your own copy (and if not, why not?, it is only £1.50) but just in case you have put it down somewhere or lent it to a friend here is the Medicine Balls article, sub-titled "Imbalance sheets" which includes a reference to Barnet:

Nowhere is ropey NHS financial management more in evidence than at the Croydon Primary Care Trust.

All looked well when the trust's 2010/11 accounts were signed off with a healthy £5.5m surplus. Except it wasn't, as whistleblowers pointed out. In fact the trust's books were a shambles representing a particularly poorly run Christmas club. A recent review from accountants Ernst & Young listed errors such as "invoices being held off-ledger and credit notes being posted without being matched to invoices" - big no-nos for any bookkeeping, never mind public finances.

The result was that "the true underlying financial performance of NHS Croydon...was not accurately reported to the Department of Health". The trust is now thought to be facing a £45m shortfall.

The dodgy accounting continued undetected for reasons including a lack of "scrutiny and challenge by the board" and "significant deficiencies in the financial management arrangements and operational control environment". Which might be thought bad news for the chief executive who had been in charge for eight years, Caroline Taylor.

Not a bit of it though. She has moved on to better things across the Thames and is now chief executive of NHS North Central London, in charge of healthcare across Haringey, Enfield, Barnet, Camden and Islington.

Barnet Council, in line with all others, now have a greater role in healthcare so at some point she will come across our Chief Financial Officer, Andrew "black hole" Travers. It looks like the two of them will get along fabulously.

Update for ruling Barnet Councillors - " a lack of scrutiny and challenge" could well describe your level of interestand/or involvement in the One Barnet programme. What if those figures are also £50m out?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard  

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