Andrew Dismore, Labour candidate for the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden, has today submitted to Barnet Council’s District Auditor a request that the auditor conducts a section 8 public interest inquiry into the Council’s contracting arrangements, both generally and with specific reference to the MetPro scandal ( copy reference to auditor attached)
Mr Dismore said:
“Like most Barnet taxpayers and residents, I have been following with growing alarm the revelations concerning both MetPro and the underlying lack of proper contracting procedures more generally that the scandal has identified.
Having been at the Council meeting when the Robocop style of security used by MetPro at the request of the Council first came under criticism, the consequent investigations have revealed a catalogue of catastrophic failures by Barnet Council and its leadership.
This poor contracting and lack of financial control is not a one off, as the Iceland investment fiasco and cost overruns of the Aerodrome Rd bridge confirm.
What is especially worrying, is that the internal audit found there were inadequate systems to ensure the same thing did not happen again. The “One Council” initiative will create dozens of opportunities for more to go wrong too, with consequent mammoth losses to Barnet’s long suffering tax payers, if immediate corrective action is not taken.
I therefore believe it is vital that the external district auditor now uses his powers to conduct a full public interest inquiry into Barnet Council’s contract procedures and I have today written to the auditor, seeking such an intervention on his part”.
REQUEST FOR PUBLIC INTEREST INQUIRY UNDER SECTION 8 OF THE AUDIT COMMISSION ACT 1998
As a Barnet Council council tax payer I request Barnet Council’s district auditor to conduct a public interest inquiry into the Council’s procurement processes, with particular reference to the “contract” with MetPro.
After problems at a recent council meeting due to heavy handed security arrangements, local people and journalists stated an investigation into this security company. These investigations revealed major failings both in the company and in the Council’s procurement processes.
There has now been an internal audit of these arrangements, which has found, in summary, that:
- There were no checks that MetPro was licensed with the Security Industry Authority
- There were no checks that MetPro staff had undergone Criminal Records Bureau checks
- There were no checks on MetPro’s insurance and financial status
- The council had not followed basic contract procedure rules
- There is no complete register of all corporate contracts
- Auditors could give no assurance that the same thing wouldn’t happen again
For the full internal audit report see:
Local news coverage of the issue includes:
External audit is an essential element in the process of accountability for public money and makes an important contribution to the stewardship of public resources and the corporate governance of public services.
Under Section 8 of the Audit Commission Act 1998, the appointed auditor is required to consider whether to issue a report in the public interest on any significant matter coming to his or her notice in the course of an audit, to bring it to the notice of the audited body and the public.
I would ask that you now consider a public interest investigation under S8, not just into the issue of MetPro, but into the wider issues this case has identified, concerning failings in the Council’s contracting systems, controls and recording mechanisms. Without urgent reform, there is a present risk of repeat in relation to contract letting and indeed there may already be as yet unidentified similar problems with other council contracts.
I await to hear from you.
Barnet Council Tax payer.
Mrs Angry is relieved to see at least one local politician taking action to demand a full investigation into the extremely serious issues that the MetPro scandal has raised. The whole affair has been marked by a shameful silence from all three of our local Tory MPs. Theresa Villiers, Matthew Offord and Mike Freer have all ignored this appalling mess. Why? What a gutless bunch they are.
In the case of Matthew Offord and Mike Freer, of course, both MPs are closely associated with the Tory administration which first employed this illegally operating company. Offord was a Cabinet member and Freer was Leader.
The current Tory administration of Broken Barnet is so fearful of the toxic qualities of the MetPro issue that it has retreated into a state of absolute denial, with councillors told to make no comment, and the only official statement an insultingly dismissive remark from Councillor Daniel Thomas, agreeing only that contract arrangements needed tightening up. Pathetic. We have seen no response from Richard Cornelius, no official statement, no apologies. This is a shabby way to start as Leader, and he ought to be ashamed of himself.
We have also heard absolutely nothing whatsoever from someone who normally has no problem in expressing his opinion on any given subject under the sun: yes, our current London Assembley member, and local Cabinet member, councillor Brian Coleman. You might think that Mr Coleman might like to express some interest in this stinking issue, and tell us what he thinks for example, of the failures in safeguarding which have exposed children and vulnerable people in his constituency to risk from unchecked employees, or what he thinks of the astounding level of financial incompetence Lord Palmer's audit report has revealed. You might also want to ask him how he feels about this company, in its latest incarnation, still operating in his Totteridge ward, despite the data protection breaches which are the subject of investigation by the Information Commissioner.
I suppose the Tories imagine that by sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and humming very loudly, all this unpleasantness will somehow melt away, and all will be forgotten.
How wrong can you be?
In Broken Barnet, if you are a Tory, you can be very, very wrong indeed, can't you, citizens?