Last night’s audit committee was a long and unsatisfactory meeting. I’m afraid that due to work pressures this is a rather perfunctory blog. I was aware right from the start that there was a tension in the air, referred to by Cllr Rayner as “the elephant in the room”, the subject of RM Countryside’s contractual relationship took over two hours before it made a brief and unsatisfactory appearance.
Mrs Angry and I had asked a number of questions, all successfully evaded or denied in the written responses. The one response that surprised me was the admission that One Barnet, the council’s transformation programme is “inherently risky”.
Procurement remains a running sore in Barnet and the latest date for centralising the purchasing function is June next year, almost a year since it was determined that it should take place.
I have long maintained that many of the problems identified at the audit committee last night are straightforward business issue that should never have happened in the first place. I am convinced that they have arisen because senior management have spent far too much time concentrating on implementing One Barnet and far too little time making sure the day to day business of the council is operated efficiently and effectively.
Procurement is a serious and immediate problem. At the same time, £200,000 a month is being paid to just one firm of external consultants to help implement One Barnet. If Barnet were to divert some of that consultancy spend into speeding up the centralisation of procurement I’m sure it could have been implemented by now.
Sadly, the audit committee is a bit of a toothless tiger; it may roar (or purr rather loudly) but ultimately officers don’t give a stuff because the committee has no power to call officers to account, admitted several times by chairman Lord Palmer. Cabinet members are the only people who can do anything in Barnet and, whilst that remains the case, the audit committee will remain the impotent talking shop it has become.