Tuesday, 7 June 2011

MetPro report: Barnet's contract procurement and monitoring systems are f***ed

The report of the internal audit into Barnet council's relationship with the MetPro companies comes to damning conclusions about the council's contract procurement and monitoring systems. I'm no expert in these things but even I can understand this:
Overall message

* The Council has failed to comply with its Contract Procedure Rules (CPR) and Financial Regulations, exposing the Council to significant reputational and financial risks.

* Internal Audit cannot give assurance that this non-compliance is an isolated incident, due to a lack of an accurate and complete centrally held contracts register and effective monitoring arrangements.

* We recommend that all spend over the stated threshold in the CPR be reviewed and matched to a central contracts register (in development) in a timely basis.
The report (available here) has been prepared in relation to the council's relationship with a poxy little security outfit based in Whetstone. How much harder is it going to be to get good value for taxpayers' money and ensure that contractors are complying with the law when Barnet is running with the big boys, Capita, Serco et al?

The One Barnet Programme of mass outsourcing is seriously up the spout, if the management and political leaders of Barnet take the proper lessons from this investigation.

Also I would think that some heads should roll in the higher layers of Barnet management. This report shows substantial failings over several years throughout the council. Someone - someone high-paid, not someone lower down the food chain - should take responsibility for that.

A central and alarming point to note is that none of this would have come out if it had not been for some pretty unlikely accidents:
* MetPro security overplaying their hand at the council meeting on 1 March and getting residents' and bloggers' backs up

* MetPro boss Kevin Sharkey turning up to a residents' forum and shooting his mouth off

* MetPro Rapid Response going bust at about the same time.
Had bloggers not done their own digging and delving into the council's relationship with MetPro, and told the press about it, none of this might have come to light - until we were well into the One Barnet outsourced council world and it was too late. And without all the unwelcome publicity that the bloggers' enquiries threw up, would Barnet council even have bothered to have this investigation?

The audit report makes recommendations to council management, all of which, of course, they now meekly accept. I have my own recommendations which I believe to be the correct political response to the report. It is up to Barnet Conservatives' new leadership (to be appointed on 15 June, the night before the audit committee meeting which will discuss MetPro) whether they accept these recommendations or not:
* halt the One Barnet (mass outsourcing) Programme

* determine who in the higher echelons of Barnet management should take responsibility for these failings and sack them.

1 comment:

Mrs Angry said...

it's odd to think back to that meeting now, and wonder if any of this would have ever seen the light of day, were it not for the shenanigans in the public gallery ... how extraordinary it is that that is what it took to highlight such serious incompetence on such a large scale. It is a timely report, just before the leadership vote - let's hope our Tory councillors read it carefully and think through some of the more complex implications, if they are capable.