On Wednesday night, at Hendon Town Hall, there will be a Barnet Cabinet meeting, followed by a Cabinet Resources Meeting. The much criticised closure of Friern Barnet Library will be amongst items on the agenda, but also up for approval by the complicit cabal of Tory councillors, will be Item 20, quietly seeking their rubber stamping of a sneaky attempt to cover up even more non compliant contracts, or casual commercial arrangements, MetPro style, being used by the council.
Item 20 (*see below for details) asks the Cabinet to allow these irregular agreements to continue, with the same providers, because, in essence, it would mess up their haste to complete the £1 billion One Barnet outsourcing process.
This bunch of incompetent fools, the senior management team and Tory leadership of Barnet Council, none of whom had noticed that the entire administration was based on an empire of non compliant contracts and unregulated procurement for council services - when this inconvenient truth was brought to their notice, courtesy of the local bloggers, all of them denied any responsibility for any blame, and promised to sort everything out.
Here we are, a year after the initial MetPro scandal which kicked this all off, and, incredibly, more failures are being uncovered. Worse still, they want permission to allow these irregular arrangements to continue. Why? The giant outsourcing companies waiting to get their hands on our services must not be kept waiting.
Do you trust these people, the ones who have been so negligent in their administration of the authority, to sell off all your council services to the private sector?
Do you trust their judgement, their competence, their integrity?
Here is a question I submitted yesterday for tomorrow night's meeting: this was acknowledged within hours, but this evening I have been told 'comments' have now been removed - which ones, I have not been told - as well as my final point. My permission was not sought for whatever resulting botch up has been submitted for public question time. Judge for yourselves whether you think this is justified.
1. At the last Audit Committee meeting, which took place on December 9th last year, there was much criticism expressed by the committee in regard to a non compliant contract and continued use of the company RMCountryside, despite the irregularity of the long term 'arrangement'. This issues was one discovered and raised by local bloggers.
Mr Craig Cooper assured Lord Palmer and the committee members that there were no other cases of companies being retained by the council in breach of the rules of procurement.
Earlier this year, after verifying the matter via a Freedom of Information request, I found that the council was using another company, called 'Iris Gardening Services' without a contract, and I reported this to Councillor Lord Palmer, in his capacity as Chair of the Audit Committee.
I now note that according to Item 20 of the agenda for this week's Cabinet Resources Committee that approval is being sought for the following:
'The report seeks: (i) waiver of, relevant, rules within the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules to enable regularisation of contractual arrangements within Environment Planning and Regeneration; (ii) authority to regularise contracts; and (iii) authority to extend an Environment Planning and Regeneration Framework.'
Point 1.1.4 lists not only Iris Gardening Services and a related company, but six others, and asks for continuation of 'arrangements' until superseded by 'new' contracts. In this item the irregular arrangements of several other companies and consultancies used by Environment, Planning and Regeneration are also listed as being non compliant.
Instead of now addressing the irregularity of such arrangements, this report is, incredibly, seeking permission to condone the continuing use of these companies, thorugh the form of 'waivers' by the Cabinet, simply because of pressure from the timetable of the highly controversial One Barnet DRS outsourcing tender process.
This seems to me, as I am sure it will seem to all residents who understand this issue, a completely scandalous state of affairs.
It is now more than nine months since the 'MetPro' Audit report which revealed a staggering level of incompetence and irregularity within the procurement processes of the authority.
- Why has no effective action been taken, in such a long period, to identify and immediately address the issue of so many additional non compliant 'arrangements' with private companies providing services to the council?
- why has Councillor Coleman, as the Cabinet Member for Environment, Planning and Regeneration, not taken effective action to ensure that the services for which he is responsible are properly compliant? Will he be resigning from this post as a result of this report?
- Will you admit that the level of incompetence in failing to identify such a massive number of non compliant contracts is scandalous enough in itself: but to fail to address the issues raised last year, within a reasonable time frame, is completely unacceptable and evidence of the most serious failure of responsibility by the senior management team and political leadership of the authority?
(This last bullet point has been forbidden, and duly removed)
- How can you possibly justify condoning the irregularity of so many casual commercial 'arrangements' so as to proceed with the negotiations for £1 billion of oursourced business, when what is clearly necessary is an independent investigation of the catastrophically incompetent procurement processes of the council, and an objective, external review of the council's ability to conduct a programme of outsourcing on such an enormous scale? And how can the residents of this borough trust you with our money, our services. and our well being, when you have demonstrated such casual disregard for the law for so many years?
Late this afternoon, Mrs Angry was sent this email by an officer in Corporate Governance:
"I contact you in relation to the CRC questions you have submitted.
I inform you that the comments within the first page will not be accepted as it is not a question nor will your final bullet point be accepted, although a question it is not specific to an agenda item being considered at tomorrow’s CRC meeting"
When she received this message, Mrs Angry became angry. She sent a reply. (What she should have said, in response to his interesting use of the present tense, actually, was 'I send you a reply. I inform you you are talking out of your *rse', but Mrs Angry was too polite). She said:
"I'm sorry: what do you mean 'you inform me' that certain comments 'will not be accepted' - this is completely unacceptable censorship and completely distorts the content of my question - the final bullet is absolutely in context with the issue in Item 20. It is not acceptable for you to edit what is a perfectly valid question simply on the grounds that it does not agree with council policy. I demand that you put my question as written: the committee can choose to respond or not - they are the elected representatives with a duty to respond to public scrutiny, including awkward questions. It's called democracy."
She has also asked for full details of the constitutional grounds for censoring and editing her question without her permission.
Here is Item 20 for you all to read - complete, unabridged, unedited and not censored. Except Mrs Angry's rude comments are in red, and she has thoughtfully highlighted other things of interest in a lovely Tory blue. Sorry for the length, but if I read it, so can you.
AGENDA ITEM: 20 Pages 159 - 167
Cabinet Resources Committee
4 April 2012
Environment Planning and Regeneration Contracts
Report of Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance
The report seeks: (i) waiver of, relevant, rules within the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules to enable regularisation of contractual arrangements within Environment Planning and Regeneration; (ii) authority to regularise contracts; and (iii) authority to extend an Environment Planning and Regeneration Framework.
Lynn Bishop, Assistant Director of Environment Planning and Regeneration
Mark Rawlings, Business support Officer, Environment Planning and Regeneration
Charlene Witter, Procurement Officer, Commercial Services
Status (public or exempt)
Appendices 1 and 2 – details of contracts
For decision by
Cabinet Resources Committee
Reason for urgency / exemption from call-in
Contact for further information: Mark Rawlings, Business Support Officer, Environment Planning and Regeneration.
020 8359. 2376
1.1 That the Committee authorise a waiver of Contract Procedure Rules as necessary and authorise
The continuation of the Greenwich Leisure Contract in its current form without completion of the management agreement and lease pending the assignment of the Copthall stadium under lease to Saracens.
The continuation of arrangements for works with J’O Leary & Sons for allotment maintenance until superseded by the new minor works contract.
The continuation of arrangements for works and services with the listed vendors until superseded by new contracts:
Bush Wheeler Services
Iris Gardening Services
Iris Play Inspections
The continuation of arrangements for supplies and services with Rigby Taylor for greenspace materials until superseded by the new minor works and goods contract.
Regularisation and continuation of appointments for the consultants and legal advisors for the relevant regeneration schemes:
AECOM - Dollis Valley
CBRE - Mill Hill
CBRE - Brent X & Cricklewood
CBRE - Dollis Valley
Turner & Townsend
Continued spend against JC Decaux, the provider of Borough street furniture, for a period of 12 months with effect from 1st April 2012.
Continued spend against Castrum, provider of the tenancy database, until regularisation of the existing contractual arrangement.
Extension of the existing framework for the parking bailiff contractors for one month until the 30th April with an option to end for a further month, pending completion of the One Barnet parking outsourcing
Continued spend against Appia, highways asset management consultants, until 30th April 2012.
2. RELEVANT PREVIOUS DECISIONS
2.1 Audit Committee at its meetings on 16th June 2011 and 6th September 2011 reviewed and agreed the Procurement Controls and Monitoring Plan produced following the comprehensive review of the Council’s contract monitoring arrangements.
3. CORPORATE PRIORITIES AND POLICY CONSIDERATIONS
3.1 Regularisation of and extension to the Environment Planning and Regeneration (EPR) Contracts are sought to ensure that EPR does not hinder or impede the Council’s ‘One Barnet’ objectives. Authorisations are being sought to enable officers to secure that there are contracts in place to cover the period between now and the commencement of new arrangements with any new service provider.
3.2 The regularisation of and extension of contracts will, going forward, support the Council’s Corporate Plan objective of: ‘Better services with less money’ – through efficient, compliant procurement and contract management including reduction of administration costs associated with placements. Brilliant idea. What a shame you didn't bother to remember the corporate plan objective until today.
4. RISK MANAGEMENT ISSUES
4.1 If the contracts, identified in this report, are not regularised and extended where necessary, the Council will lose the ability to create and provide a better, more efficient service and looking over the long term, the potential to use these partnerships to deliver services to others. The remaining estimated time for the Development and Regulatory Services (DRS) phase one procurement process is 10 months to Contract award. You haven't used the ability, if you have it at all, to do this before now, so there is nothing to lose, is there, really? So no need to rush, I would say. Why not try to sort things out, before getting us into a £1 billion mess which will make all this look like peanuts?
4.2 Unless the option to regularise and extend contracts is exercised the council will need to carry out costly tendering processes before January 2013, resulting in arrangements that may not deliver best value for money. Rubbish. How much money are you wasting in these unregulated non contracts?
4.3 Some of the savings identified in 2012-13 budgets have been based on the re-negotiation of existing contracts. If waivers are not granted then there is a risk that predicted savings may not be achieved. Predicted savings based on verbal contracts ain't worth the paper they're not written on.
4.4 There is a risk of challenge within the context of European procurement regulations, with respect to any contract with a lifetime value which exceeds the, relevant, European threshold and which may not have been tendered in accordance with European procurement rules. GOOD: these arrangements bloody well should be challenged, and properly investigated.
Officers are continuing to interrogate historical records to determine the process(es) which was/were utilised in these cases, prior to selection of the contractor.
Who is going to interrogate the officers, and the councillors who have ultimate responsibility for this scandalous situation?
5. EQUALITIES AND DIVERSITY ISSUES
5.1 In providing the Services, the Contractor shall, to the same extent as if it were a public authority within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 (or any European equivalent),
comply with the 2010 Act together with all applicable amendments, regulations and Codes of Practice or any future or other legislation which concerns discrimination in employment and service delivery (the Equalities Provisions) and shall in particular comply with the public sector equality duty under Section 149.
6. USE OF RESOURCES IMPLICATIONS (Finance, Procurement, Performance & Value for Money, Staffing, IT, Property, Sustainability)
6.1 The anticipated 2012/13 spend relating to these contracts is tabulated below and are funded within the existing EPR budget provision and also project budget provision via Principal Development Agreements or the capital programme.
Anticipated 2012/13 spend
Bush Wheeler Services
J O’Leary and Son
AECOM - Dollis Valley
CBRE - Mill Hill
CBRE - Brent X & Cricklewood
CBRE - Dollis Valley
Turner & Townsend
JBW, CCS, Jacobs and Equita
There are no issues related to Staffing and Property
There are less than 10 months remaining before the part outsourcing of the EPR service as part of the DRS ‘One Barnet’ Project, leaving a short period of time to address and implement major procurement projects.
7. LEGAL ISSUES
7.1 In the event that the lifetime values of the contracts, dealt with within this report, exceed the, relevant, European Threshold, the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 (as amended) will apply. Any non-compliance with the Regulations carries a risk of legal challenge and the imposition of sanctions if successful.
7.2 The Treaty provisions of equal treatment, fairness and non-discrimination must be complied with, by the council, in carrying out its functions and in exercising its powers.
7.3 With respect to the council’s own Contract Procedure Rules, the Cabinet Committee has power to waive any one of more of those Rules if satisfied that waiver is justified on any one or more of the grounds set out in Section 8, below.
8. CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS
8.1 The Constitution, Part 3, Section 3.6 sets out the functions of the Committee, including the power, set out in contract procedure Rule 5.5 and Table 5-1, to Authorise and Accept contracts.
8.2.1 Section 5.8 of the Contract Procedure Rules enables a Cabinet Committee to waive the requirements of the Contract Procedure Rules if satisfied, after considering a written report by the appropriate officer, that the waiver is justified because:
8.2.2 the nature of the market for the works to be carried out or the supplies or services to be provided has been investigated and is demonstrated to be such that a departure from the requirements of Contract Procedure Rules is justifiable; or
8.2.3 the contract is for works, supplies or services that are required in circumstances of extreme urgency that could not reasonably have been foreseen; or
the circumstances of the proposed contract are covered by legislative exemptions (whether under EU or English Law); or
8.2.5 there are other circumstances which are genuinely exceptional.
8.2.6 Waiver of Contract Procedure Rules is being sought, herein, on the basis of exceptional circumstances, in view of the time which it would take to carry out a full procurement process; and the impending externalisation of DRS to a private partner.
Hmm. Exceptional circumstances. Or to put it an other way: they were driving without a licence or insurance, fell asleep at the wheel, crashed the car, killed everyone on board, and now they want to apply for an HGV licence and drive a fleet of container lorries.
9. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
9.1 Historically, the procurement and management of contracts for the EPR contracts detailed in this report were owned by EPR and procured with assistance from Commercial Services and the Legal department. These contracts have been managed effectively in line with Corporate Procurement guidelines in order to provide an efficient service. As the Directorate enters a period of significant change, it is not prudent to vary suppliers that are operating effectively - er, but how do you know they are acting effectively, if not properly procured, or subject to contract? as this introduces new risk with regards to the delivery of the projects, services and regeneration schemes. Project and service continuity would be disrupted with valuable time, money and resources lost ensuring future providers are adequately briefed and are capable of providing and delivering work to the required standard. Balls.
9.2 As the Council is seeking to procure a new partner through DRS, it would be inappropriate to re-procure contracts at this stage as best value could not be achieved by
changing suppliers at such a critical stage of DRS delivery. More balls. The background for each contractual arrangement where EPR are requesting a waiver of Contract Procedure Rules is listed below and on subsequent appendices.
9.2.1 Copthall Stadium
The current management arrangement in place with Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) for the Stadium delivers management of the leisure function for all activities undertaken at the Stadium. This current arrangement although firmly in place, in practice, does not conform to compliant contract as neither the lease, nor the management agreement - both of which were prepared and ready for execution – were, in the event, completed. The decision was taken not to complete the lease and contract in light of the, then, discussions which were taking place with another, prospective, partner, with the co-operation of Greenwich Leisure Ltd.
Discussions are advanced with an alternative, prospective, partner to develop this asset and then to undertake the management of the longer term activities and function of this site, for the long term. It is felt that the focus of resources therefore would be better placed on delivering the longer term outcomes of the new contract and lease for delivery.
Therefore the current contract with GLL will remain technically non-compliant until the lease and contract with Saracens supersede it, hence authority is sought to continue the contractual relationship, with Greenwich Leisure Ltd, without completion of the lease and management agreement.
Contract start date 1st April 2010
Contract end date 31st December 2017
Contract value £2.249 million
Please see other report on this agenda detailing the Borough’s CCTV requirement.
9.2.3 Greenspaces contracts (Appendix 1)
There are nine functional contracts which provide support to the existing greenspaces staff as well as enable and support greenspaces work. The contracts include works and supplies and services elements. The compliancy of these contracts has been prioritised to ensure that those that are high risk or of significant seasonal impact are addressed accordingly.
Considering current resources and taking account of the knowledge gained when dealing with the high priority contracts, procurement processes are underway to deliver compliance of these contracts by May 2012.
Approval is sought to continue these arrangements with individual quotations exercises as projects arise whilst the appropriate procurement arrangements are put in place to manage the longer term aggregation of the values of these contracts.
Environment, Planning and Regeneration Contracts (Appendix 2)
The fifteen contracts detailed in Appendix 2 are currently in use by the directorate to supply services and support the ongoing activities and service provision.
The regeneration schemes are at a critical phase of delivery and a waiver is sought in order to continue with all these arrangements. Replacement of these providers at such a critical point would severely disrupt the Council’s ability to deliver these schemes and would also have an impact on service delivery. These arrangements are to be regularised by 14th April 2012.
The parking bailiff framework Service Level Agreement requires an extension until the outsourcing of parking is complete on the 1st May 2012. The framework has been extended previously and therefore a waiver is sought to further extend the framework for one month to protect the Council against non payment of penalty charge notices.
The street furniture contract with JC Decaux requires clarification over the contract end date as the document quotes two dates. The documentation is being reviewed by Legal Services
A waiver is sought to continue with the Highways Asset Management consultant, Appia, and to regularise the contract in accordance with the Contract Procedure Rules.
The current arrangement with Castrum cannot be evidenced as a fully compliant executed contract cannot be evidenced. Work is progressing in identifying a suitable supplier and technology platform to replace the current system. In order to continue the current level of service and accurately record tenancy data, a waiver is sought to continue the current arrangement until 14th April 2012.
Each supplier identified has a specific plan of action to regularise as soon as is feasible. Monitoring of spend and activity is ongoing to ensure that thresholds are not breached and to mitigate the possibility of scrutiny and challenge."
Ah: finally - the possibility of scrutiny and challenge. No: that possibility has already been well and truly mitigated, I think, don't you?
I hope that you will agree that this item is an absolute indictment of the state of commercial competence and political leadership currently in place within the administration of Barnet Council.
More than ever it is clear that what is required is an immediate halt to the competitive dialogue processes of the One Barnet outsourcing programme, and a full, open and honest inquiry into the circumstances which have created such a pervasive culture of failure, including an investigation into the possibility of fraud, and an independent investigation into the management of the two One Barnet service tendering processes. Sooner or later, this is what must happen: but how long will it take?
After protesting about the censorship of her question, Mrs Angry has received this response from the council officer:
"Dear Mrs Angry,
The Councils Constitution, Section 4, 2.2 states:
‘Questions must relate to an item being considered on a committee agenda. Committee agendas are published on the Council’s website five working days prior to the meeting.’"
Mrs Angry has replied that her censored question does relate to an item, ie:
"How can you possibly justify condoning the irregularity of so many casual commercial 'arrangements' so as to proceed with the negotiations for £1 billion of oursourced business, when what is clearly necessary is an independent investigation of the catastrophically incompetent procurement processes of the council, and an objective, external review of the council's ability to conduct a programme of outsourcing on such an enormous scale? And how can the residents of this borough trust you with our money, our services. and our well being, when you have demonstrated such casual disregard for the law for so many years?"
... clearly relates directly to Item 20 and the point here, and repeated elsewhere in the item:
"8.2.6 Waiver of Contract Procedure Rules is being sought, herein, on the basis of exceptional circumstances, in view of the time which it would take to carry out a full procurement process; and the impending externalisation of DRS to a private partner."
She has also pointed out:
" .... you have not given me a copy of the censored question & the censored comments, nor given me details of where in the constitution it allows you to censor a public question simply because you do not wish to accept them. As part of the democratic process I have a perfect right to comment on the content of this report and submit a question, and it is not the place of a council officer or councillor to tell me what my opinion on the report should be, or decide what is an acceptable comment."