Thursday, 15 May 2014

Seven Days Till the Voters Decide

In the run up to the elections on the 22 May I thought I would revisit some of the blogs I have posted over the last four years to see of anything has changed. Today I am looking at a blog posted in December 2010 which relates  to points raised by the Council's auditors, Grant Thornton in their report to the Audit Committee. In, particular there were eight key risks they raised as follows:

- The Council needs to demonstrate that it has an understanding, at a service level, of the links between costs and performance and achievement of value for money.

- As part of the One Barnet programme the Council should develop sound contract monitoring arrangements with third party providers.

- The Council should ensure that it is consistent in its approach to evaluating procurement options.

- The Council should follow a systematic approach to options appraisals, which includes being specific about benefits/outcomes expected and their measurement.

- The Council's Risk Management Strategy should be revised to include tolerance levels to assist officers in making important decisions, particularly around One Barnet.

- The Capital Assets Property Management Strategy (CAPS) should be reviewed to emphasise the focus on partnerships that is apparent within the One Barnet programme.

Once the Council has robust fit-for-purpose data for its workforce it should develop a workforce strategy which links in with how One Barnet is to be delivered.

- There should be a focus on equipping senior managers with the necessary change management skills to ensure that the One Barnet is successful.

So what have the Council learnt over the last four years. Have the Councillors worked hard to improve these matters? Sadly we see so many of the same issues being raised in the last audit committee meeting held just a couple of weeks ago. The report this time was prepared by the Council's Internal Audit team but it suggests that virtually all of the problems found by Grant Thornton in 2010 remain a problem today.

Links Between Cost & Performance:
"We found an overspend on the Harrow & Barnet Public Law (HBPL) contract, with uncertainty noted in Delivery Units regarding the charging process. Further, it is unclear what income will be achieved on the HBPL contract from the provision of legal services to Re and the Barnet Group and how that will be accounted for"

Contract Monitoring with Third Party Providers:
"There is no requirement for the order of agency staff on the Comensura system to be approved by a more senior officer. There is therefore a risk that agency staff may be appointed without appropriate approval. This may not be in-line with the Council’s scheme of delegation and lead to inappropriate use of the Council’s resources"

Benefits Outcome and Measurement:
"The Parking Project’s business case listed 13 financial and non- financial benefits to be delivered to the Council throughout the five year contract period, which included income generation, service quality and savings targets. We found that controls were not in place to ensure that the future realisation of these planned benefits was monitored and managed, for example roles and responsibilities for benefit management and planned timelines for benefit reporting. The Benefits Realisation Plan produced at the end of the project had not been reviewed since the project handed over to the Clienting team in May 2012. 

Fit For Purpose Data:
There are currently significant operational issues with the system in that it ‘freezes’ limiting its use for operational staff. This has been reported however calls to the helpdesk regarding issues with Swift have remained unresolved and senior management within the delivery unit have not escalated the matter to ensure its resolution. 

Necessary Change Management Skills
"There is a lack of ownership for IT user management across the Council in relation to the areas audited and at a corporate level. This stems from the lack of a clear division of responsibility in this area between the Council and its IT support provider Capita". 

Risk Management Strategy 
"There is no corporate business continuity strategy, and this is recognised as a risk on the Council's risk register. Previous business continuity incidents are not formally recorded and there is no lessons learned log."

So in four years the council have not really leaned that many lessons and are still getting the basics wrong. What I wonder is why the only people asking these serious questions are the bloggers and concerned residents of Barnet and not the Councillors who we are paying £1 million a year to act as our representatives. There are a few notable exceptions, councillors who do challenge, but they are definitely the exception. The majority of the 63 councillors just sit by impassively and let officers do what they want. That, in my view, is not what makes an effective councillor. I hope you judge carefully the people asking for your vote next week and consider whether they are fit to be running the Council.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the reminder Mr R. The items I asked for in my supplementary questions at Audit Committee have not been sent to me. If the default setting of the council was "open and transparent" as is alleged, I would have had them the next day not be waiting for them 3 weeks later.