Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Barnet Council Future Shape - A conflict of interest?

BT invited Barnet Council Leader Mike Freer and CEO Leo Boland to participate in the Vital Vision program. This program involves seminars and conferences to "nurture" interest in concepts such as outsourcing within the public sector. Participants are invited to conferences in places such as Boston and attend swanky restaurants such as Lucca restaurant in Boston (click HERE for a preview). I've detailed the full program elsewhere on the blog, but on the eve of the Future Shape discussion, I feel obliged to ask a few questions regarding the proposal and the way the report has been put together.

I am directing these questions primarily at the Cabinet of Barnet Council and am asking them to give these points due consideration in advance of the debate tomorrow (3rd December).

1. Do you think that Council Leader Mike Freer's enrollment in the BT Vital Vision program may be interpreted as a conflict of interest given that BT are a primary supplier of Outsourcing services. Could this be construed as giving BT unfair access to a senior decision maker within Barnet Council?

2. Do you think that the inclusion of Max Wide, BT Director, Strategic Development Local Government, as a contributor to the future shape report, may be construed as giving an unfair advantage to BT in the procurement process?

3. Do you think that restricting access in the process of framing the report to an elite circle, including a supplier standing to make a lot of money from the recommendations, whilst excluding established stakeholders, is likely to be seen as an open and honest way of conducting business?

4. Do you think that suppliers of particular products are more or less likely to recommend solutions provided by their employers than those of rival organisations?

5. If you were seeking advice pertaining to your own personal financial situation, would you use an independent adviser or an adviser working for a company supplying the products you wanted to buy.

Whilst only participants of the vital vision scheme will actually know the detail of the subject matter covered and whilst it is made quite clear that the scheme is not a sales related scheme, the Council has to be seen to be open and honest in its procurement policies. Whilst it is quite clear that BT do not pay travel and subsistance for participants, being a public body, the Council must be seen to be completely honest and impartial in all its dealings. The participation of Mike Freer in BT Vital Vision and the role of Max Wide in the framing of the Future Shape report raises many questions regarding the way the scheme is being implemented.

I strongly urge all Barnet Council Cabinet members to consider these points and ensure that all decisions taken with reference to "Future Shape" are done in such a manner that it is 100% clear that there is no conflict of interest in the process.

1 comment:

Don't Call Me Dave said...

The employment of a BT director (on secondment) might be a coincidence, but this needs to be checked. If there is a conflict of interest, it is hard to see how he can remain working on the project.