Here is Labour GLA Candidate Andrew Dismore's response to the District Auditor, following his refusal to hold an inquiry into the Metpro Scandal :-Dear Mr Hughes,
Thank you for your letter of 30th June.
You do not wish to conduct a public interest inquiry because you say, in summary:
1. The council is taking action
2. It might undermine confidence in the council
3. The council is implementing the recommendations
4. The council is doing further investigations, and
5. The issue is already in the public domain
The obvious response in relation to points 1, 3 and 4, is that we have heard this from Barnet many times before but nothing seems to improve, as I expand below.
As far as point 2 is concerned, nothing could further undermine public confidence in Barnet’s administration, which is now at rock bottom as any objective resident would confirm and as evidenced by the Council’s own satisfaction surveying.
As far as point 5 is concerned, some of the issue of contract letting and compliance may be in the public domain, but only as specific horror stories individually come to light. The Metpro fiasco is just the latest. My request for the public interest inquiry was not just in the context of Metpro, but more generally into Barnet’s contract letting and monitoring processes and checks.
Only this week, the Hendon Times has carried on its front page yet another example, this time in the contracting (or lack of it) for care services, where failings at the social care centre with whom the Council failed to follow proper procedures and checks and to agree a formal contract actually led to the death of a resident with learning difficulties.
Barnet are serial offenders presiding over a catalogue of procurement disasters. “Taking action” involves actually cutting nine posts in the Corporate Procurement Team. How will cutting posts help deliver an "effective and responsive" procurement service when the council are about to embark on complex privatisations? I suspect this decision has more to do with saving money than sorting out the service.
Moreover, the council met only half (51.5%) of their service improvement targets last year ( for the second year in a row, although this has been a running theme for five or six years despite the picture they would have you believe of a high performing council).
Targets missed include two targets under “effective contract management”:
· % of contracts held by the Council that have been reviewed – target missed by 26.6%,
· % of contracts deemed to require renegotiation that have commenced renegotiation –target missed by 57.8%).
This suggests that while the MetPro scandal hit the press and caught the public imagination, there appear to be more deep seated problems with procurement and contracts that throw real doubt about the council's capacity to take on the highly risky "easyCouncil" service outsourcing.
In the circumstances, I would invite you to reconsider your decision.