Monday, 16 July 2012

Barnet Council - cutting audit whilst increasing the need for it

Another week, more lunacy from Barnet Council. As readers of this blog will be aware, certain Barnet Council Cabinet members have gone on the attack about the critics of the One Barnet mega outsourcing project. They could have used their time far more effectively by actually reading the delegated powers reports which show what the council is up to and trying to understand the implications of the changes. It seems to fall to bloggers in Barnet to try and keep an eye on this. The lastest bit of lunacy is the plan to downsize the audit department. Sadly the real detail of this change is "exempt", which means we can't see it. I have no idea at all why a report explaining why we need less auditors needs to be exempted from public scrutiny (other than the contents will show the council are incompetent), but it is.

The public report is here.

You can read it here
1730 - People Changes for Finance Internal Audit and Risk Management Public

There are a couple of very revealing facts in the document. Perhaps the most worrying is the fact that the CEO, Mr Nick Walkley has created an organisation that nobody wants to work for

8.3 The change in the posts has occurred as they have not currently been filled after two unsuccessful recruitment drives.  

Then there is a rather odd statement in section 5 which deals with finance.

5.1.1 Overall the cost of the additional/amended posts will be met within the existing agreed budgets.  The change in posts will reduce the salary budget by approximately £9,000. However, this saving  will be used within the budget for training and development of staff through virement.

This phrase makes it clear that the department is being downsized and deskilled. It may amuse you to hear that I didn't know what the word Virement meant. I am sure you are all far cleverer than I am, so got the meaning immediately. Luckily in this day and age, we have on line dictionaries, so I looked it up

World English Dictionary
virement  (ˈvaɪəmənt, ˈvɪəmɑ̃) 
— n
an administrative transfer of funds from one part of a budget to another

So there you go, the £9,000 saving will be transferred to another budget. You may ask why this is important and why the Barnet Eye considers this to be highly worrying and highly dangerous. The reason is simple. The Metpro audit made it 100% clear that the Audit department was under strength. When it was announced that only ten out of 9,700 contracts had been effectively audited, this proved that something was wrong.

The audit department has undergone several restructures of late. This is merely the latest. As the council is planning to massively increase the number of outsourcing contracts under the One Barnet program, you would expect a large increase in the budget for staff for this department. As it is, staff are being cut, budgets are being cut and therefore even less scrutiny will take place of suppliers than is done currently. Even more worrying is that the council have admitted that they have become such a basket case council that even when they want to recruit new staff, they can't.

Barnet Council CEO Nick Walkley and Deputy CEO, Uber Consultant Andrew Travers have presided over a regime where they can't even get staff to work for Barnet anymore.In light of the Metpro audit, it cannot be argued that this is anything less than a disaster. The most worrying thing is what is in that exempt report and why us mere taxpayers are not allowed to see it. Barnet Council has a corrosive culture of secrecy. It cannot be argued that this is anything other than dangerous. This document proves it.

I await with interest Lord Palmers comments.

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