Sunday, 18 September 2011

MetPro FOI no 2: second longest response from Barnet

Mrs Angry's lesson for the week for the senior officers of the London Borough of Broken Barnet

Yesterday's post concerned the FOI response from Barnet Council to a resident, Mr P, in regard to the MetPro scandal, which arrived after a staggering five month wait, rather than within the statutory limit of twenty working days. Last night, shortly after publishing the post, Mrs Angry received an email from Mr David Howard, a much respected resident and veteran local campaigner, who had also received a shamelessly delayed response from Barnet in relation to questions about the MetPro issue, submitted on the 2nd of May, and only replied to on the 16th September.

There can no longer be any doubt that Barnet Council is deliberately flouting the regulations of the Freedom of Information Act for political reasons.

Here in Broken Barnet all sensitive, dangerous information is now routinely held hostage, like a prisoner of conscience, kept in detention without trial, and without access to legal protection, in a manner entirely fitting with the tin pot dictatorship of our secretive, bullying Tory council and the machiavellian plotting of its senior management team.

Mrs Angry believes that it is time that the Information Commissioner investigates the scurrilous practice of abuse of the FOI regulations by Barnet Council, and takes appropriate and immediate action to hold the authority to account.

Mr Howard's questions, the delayed reply from Barnet, and Mrs Angry's rather more immediate response in red.

Dear Mr Howard, Response to your requests for information I write in response to your request, received by the council on 2 May 2011, for information on the council’s arrangement with MetPro and related procurement matters. We are processing your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). Under the FOIA you should have received a response within 20 working days. I apologise on behalf of the council for not meeting this deadline and for the significant length of time it has taken to respond to your request.


Taking each part of your request in turn:

1) “Please can you tell me if at time since 2006 The London Borough of Barnet has advertised in accordance with the Public Contract Regulations Act 2006 for the supply of any form or security services to the Borough in general or specifically for any of its premises or sites directly owned or leased from other landlords and managed by the Council?”

Please see the attached report to the council’s Audit Committee dated June 2011. As set out in this report, procurement exercises for security contracts were commenced in late 2006 and again in June 2009. However neither of these exercises was completed and so no advertisements or invitations to tender were published.

2) “Have any advertisements been placed in the prescribed format for the provision of any security service contracts to any part of the Council’s operations in the Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union?”

There is currently a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) for a security contract with the council. No other such OJEU notices were placed in the period 2006 to present.

3) “Was any Council officer(s) aware when it let the original contract to Metpro Rapid response that payments to that company might exceed the threshold of £153,000 over the ensuing four years?” 4) “Which officer(s)?” 5) “Once it became apparent that the payments to Metpro would exceed the threshold and open public tender would be required, which officer(s) took the decision not to put the work out to public tender as required by the above Regulations?”

Please note the FOIA provides a right of access to information on the council’s records. The recorded information held by the council falling within these parts of your request is set out in pages 11-13 of the attached report to the council’s Audit Committee dated 16 June 2011.

Please note that no one wants to answer question (4) or question (5). Can't think why, can you?

6) “In the light of the experience gained between 2006 and 2011 was the contract to let the contract in 2011 to Metpro Emergency Response put out to tender in accordance with the above Regulations ( the threshold is £156,442 from 2010)”

On 14 March 2011 Metpro Rapid Response Ltd was placed into Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation and BM Advisory LLP was appointed as Liquidator. A separate company, Metpro Emergency Response Ltd, purchased amongst other things, the ‘goodwill’ of Metpro Rapid Response and, in the absence of notification to the council, continued to provide a service to the council along the lines of the previous arrangements with Metpro Rapid Response Ltd.
The council did not agree to the change of contractors; nor was the council consulted in a proper manner. By notice dated 31 March 2011 the council terminated the arrangement with MetPro Emergency Response Ltd. As such the council holds no recorded information falling within this part of your request.

This is a One Barnet bucket load of shite: we are given poignant references to 'the absence of notification', 'the council did not agree to the change of contractors', 'nor was the council consulted in a proper manner' ... excuse me ... tragic case, of course, tears are rolling down Mrs Angry's cheeks ... but - sniff - could it be that Barnet Council, no, no, it cannot be ... carried on paying MetPro throughout its long sequence of metamorphoses without any query, due to its grossly incompetent administration, and possibly because, some officer(s) were turning a corporately blinded eye to the changes, and to the fact that no contract existed, and, as we will be reminded from the evidence in newly disclosed emails in the next post, all attempts to enforce a tender process were mysteriously dropped? Barnet have refused to countenance the possibility of fraud, despite Lord Palmer's investigation stating clearly that he could not be sure that such activity had not taken place. How very convenient for all concerned.

7) “Since 2006 which officer(s) has overall responsibility for ensuring that contracts are let in accordance with the relevant legislation?” 8) “What policies and procedures have been in place since 2006 to ensure that all staff placing orders, entering into arrangements or letting tenders to suppliers of goods, services and contracts comply with the Public Contract Regulations Act 2006?” 9) “Which officer(s) has responsibility for monitoring that any policies are implemented in full?” 10) “How are exceptions to any procedures monitored and to whom are they reported?”

The council’s Financial Regulations, Contract Procedure Rules (CPR) and the Procurement Code of Practice govern the way day to day procurement activity and financial administration is conducted and exercised. The CPR, last updated April 2010, provide the framework within which the council may procure works, supplies and services.

Er, yes: a framework which was blatantly ignored. But by whom, was the question, which you have not answered.

The Council’s Corporate Procurement Team (CPT) maintain, renew and manage all corporate contracts and provide best practice advice to service areas on all aspects of procurement.

Clearly the best practice advice was not communicated, nor contracts managed properly: yet again, the individuals responsible have not been held to account. Ah ... see below for a clue why not ...

Directors and Heads of Service are responsible for all contracts tendered and let by
their service areas. They should ensure effective contract management, contract reviews and monitoring during the lifetime of all contracts in their areas in accordance with CPR items 4.1 to 4.1.16.

Well, it is pretty bloody obvious, even by the floor scrapingly low benchmark of performance standards in Broken Barnet, that these ludicrously overpaid Directors and Heads of Service did not ensure 'effective contract management' or, in the case of MetPro and 600 other 'non compliant' cases, effective management of 'arrangements' with private sector service providers. And yet they are still all in post, and have received no sanction as a result. One imagines that an ordinary officer who fails to fulfill their duties on such a spectacular scale would have been immediately dismissed. It seems, however, that the higher you rise in the pecking order of Broken Barnet, and the better paid you are, the less responsibility you have.

These documents form part of the council’s Constitution and can be found here:

Oh yeah: the constitution. Don't bother relying on anything you find there: they certainly don't.

More later.

1 comment:

baarnett said...

As I was saying, before I was so rudely deleted...

The "Metpro Group Limited" business is an extra little angle to follow up.

This third company lasted about 18 months (from memory). The company was set up, milked Barnet Council, and was liquidated, without sending any accounts to Companies House.

Did it send any income tax, national insurance or corporation tax payments to HM Revenue and Customs? Why did HMR&C allow it to be liquidated?

And on another matter entirely, did I see on 'Spooks', just before the laptop in the warehouse blew up, a line of soup cans on a table? And who did I think of, at that particular moment? Can you think of anyone who is an international man of mystery, and an expert of soup?