Thursday, 19 January 2012

Exclusive : Barnet Council whistleblower calls time on the One Barnet Project

Firstly a health warning. This document was received by me in a brown envelope with a Barnet Council franked postmark (ie posted through the Councils mail system). I have no idea whether it is a pukka document or a spoof, knocked up to discredit the blog. You will have to read it to decide for yourself. I am basing the commentary on the assumption that it is the real deal, but this is merely conjecture on my part. I sought legal advice prior to publishing this. As there is no disclaimer anywhere on the document to indicate that is privelidged information subject to legal sanction, I assume there is no reason to refrain from publishing it.The front page says "The information contained in this document is confidential as it is highly sensitive commercial information. Any leakage of this information will have very serious financial implications for the council". When I received the document, this concerned me. I did not want to cause expense to the Barnet taxpayer. Having read the document, I believe that the leadership of the council are embarking on a dangerous and risky path and failure to publish this document would expose the taxpayer to avoidable risks. I believe public sector accounts and bids should be open and transparent and companies biddings for work should be able to find out why their bid was rejected. I also see no reason why the taxpayer should not be kept informed.

My thanks go out to the member of Barnet Council who sent this. Whistleblowing carries risks and they should be commended for their actions by everyone in Barnet who believes in open, honest and transparent government. Here is the report. Read it and then read my analysis. I believe that this shows that the whole One Barnet outsourcing project is built on a house of cards of risk, untested assumptions and shoddy process.Firstly, I must say how shocked I was to receive this document. As access to this was stricly controlled, it shows that people at the heart of the Barnet Council must lack faith in the process. They must believe that it is safer to send it to a blogger to expose the process than it is to keep this under wraps. Why?

First lets look at the percieved weaknesses of the two bidders moving to the next stage. Read the risks associated with the EC Harris and Capita Symonds bid. These are huge for a contract worth £290 million. For example on risk the EC Harris bid was weak because "Ownership is not set out for a number of identified risks" or Capita Symonds "More specific commitments required eg regarding the financial implications of change". So they want to sign a huge contract with companies, when they don't know who is responsible for the risks involved. We've seen this before. In the railway industry, National Express took over the East Coast mainline. Then there was an economic downturn, the contractor couldn't make any profit, so they gave it back to the Government. On the financial and commercials, Capita Symonds actually are charging the highest fee. In the financial commentary, EC Harris are the company which offers the best guranteed financial benefit. This is nearly £4 million higher than Capita Symonds. In the final picture, they move to second because Capita Symonds add £5.7 million worth of "confidence adjusted aspirational financial benefit". You may ask WTF? Well in English an aspiration is something we'd like. I aspire to get a better job or live in a better area. It is something I want. So Barnet Council have paid a team of consultants a fortune to decide that Capita Symonds are more likely than EC Harris to want to give us (the taxpayer) a few million quid? Could you make it up?  It is clear to me that the wheels are off this project and it is clear to me that the whistleblower also knows this and has decided it is time to end this expensive charade. Whilst I doubt that Barnet CEO Nick Walkley will be overly chuffed to find his organisation has more leaks than Wales on St Davids day, the rest of us should be reassured that people at Barnet Council care enough to take the risk of letting us see how such decisions are made and why we should be calling time on such a flawed process.

*********************** Updated 20/1/2012 at 19:34  ******************************
The link to  SCRIBD detailing this document has been removed following a letter received at 19.10 from Barnet Council Legal Department. The Barnet Eye will be taking legal advice on Monday to ascertain any further action.

Here's a brief summary which may help you understand what this is all about and why it's important.

What is this leaked document ?

Barnet Council is seeking to become the first all commissioning council whereby it no longer delivers any services. To do this the council have employed consultants to implement the One Barnet Programme, the total cost to the tax payers for these consultants to implement this Programme will be over £10 million. This figure does not include the amount of council officer time and resources provided to the Programme at a time when services to the most vulnerable and young people have been cut.

Who will deliver Council Services?
The Council have decided that only the big FTSE companies are able to carry out this task.

“What is DRS?”
DRS means Development and Regulatory Services

The following Council Services have been brought together for this outsourcing. Trading Standards & Licensing, Land Charges, Planning & Development, Building Control & Structures, Environmental Health, Highways Strategy, Highways Network Management, Highways Traffic & Development, Highways Transport & Regeneration, Strategic Planning & Regeneration, Cemeteries & Crematoria;

The Document appears to be a summary of the evaluation of bids from four big Companies
·         Jacobs Engineering (US international technical & profesional construction consultancy)
·         EC Harris & FM Conway (EC Harris is a construction consultancy owned by Arcadis, a Dutch based international engineering and management consultancy). FM Conway is highway, building, cleansing and recycling company operating in London and south east. Clearly, EC Harris leads the 'partnership'. 
·         Capita Symonds (subsidiary of Capita Group plc)
·         Mouchel Enterprise (a joint venture between Mouchel Group plc and Enterprise plc)
The document provides confidential information about what each bidders are claiming they can save and what income they can generate.
It is worth noting that a number of these services are income generating (like Parking) hence the attraction to the Private Sector e.g. the Cemetery & Crematorium). This assumption has been done before in Westminster!

Why is the report being leaked?
The local UNISON branch has already conducted a number of high profile strikes and it is clear that the whistle blowing release of this information indicates there are serious concerns. When organisations are engaged in competitive dialogue, confidentiality is a key risk to all parties.

The full cost of bidding is likely to be between £500,000 - £1m for each company involved in the full procurement process.

The One Barnet Programme has been under considerable scrutiny by local bloggers, residents and UNISON.

The fact that this document has been leaked suggests there is major disquiet over what is happening within the Council and its drive to outsource at any cost (cut following sentence - Someone has taken the very serious risk to alert the public about what is going on.)

This is a serious business, according to the OJEU notice this could be worth upwards of £270m - £290m to the private contractor in a ten-year contract.

*So who is the lead bidder?

From looking at the document it appears Capita are the clear favourites and unless there is some pretty major turnaround it is clear Capita are going to win this contract.
Although Jacobs have come out bottom who is to say that their bid is the more realistic?

* This is an assumption made only on what is in this document. The document refers to more detailed information contained somewhere else.

1 comment:

baarnett said...

"The link to SCRIBD detailing this document has been removed following a letter received at 19.10 from Barnet Council Legal Department. The Barnet Eye will be taking legal advice on Monday to ascertain any further action."

Odd that they left it till Friday evening to respond, isn't it?

Let us hope their legal bid is unsound. It wouldn't be for the first time.