Jobs on line as Barnet comes under fire

11 July 2011

 11 July 2011 | Angeline Albert

Poor contract management uncovered at the London Borough of Barnet has put all buying jobs at risk.

All nine buying positions in the corporate procurement team are to be replaced with new job descriptions as part of a drive to improve purchasing practices. This means existing staff must reapply for the roles.

The restructuring move follows the publication of a highly critical internal audit report last month. The MetPro Rapid Response Internal Audit Report revealed the council had no contract between itself and MetPro Rapid Response for providing security services for a number of its buildings, including Hendon Town Hall. It also noted the lack of a procurement process prior to the firm’s appointment. It highlighted “serious deficiencies in current procurement arrangements that require immediate attention from management”.

“Thorough investigations and enquiries have been made, but have not resulted in the identification of either a service-based or a corporate contract, suggesting that controls have been ineffective in ensuring that a contract was put in place to record the relationship between the council and, initially, MetPro Rapid Response.”

Council spend with MetPro between 2007 and 2011 exceeded EU procurement rules on purchasing thresholds for which an annual contract should have been established. Between 2006 and 2011, it spent £1.3 million with the company, which has since gone into liquidation.

The report said: “Inadequate controls, monitoring and record keeping were in place by officers responsible for procuring services from MetPro at a local level. Officers cannot, on the basis of existing procedures, give assurance that this will not happen again, due to the lack of an accurate and complete corporate contract register and effective monitoring arrangements for contracts.”

One of the report’s recommendations is for a fit-for-purpose contract service specification to be developed for tender evaluation purposes and monitoring service delivery.

Councillor Daniel Thomas, cabinet member for resources and performance, said: “This is a high-performing council, but it is not a perfect council. These very tough internal audit reports make it clear that there are areas we need to improve. A plan is in place to do just that and members will be making sure it is followed to the letter.”

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