Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Has Governance been sidelined in Barnet?

Last night a number of reports were published by Unison which call into question the role of governance in Barnet. Two internal audit reports and a report by Local Partnerships demonstrate the risks attached to the One Barnet outsourcing programme. A few quotes from the reports include the following:

"The programme does not have a formalised and universally understood change control process operating either at programme or project level."

"There is scope to strengthen the programme governance arrangements, in particular clarifying the authority of the programme board and reviewing its participants."

"A programme level dependency log identifies dependencies, but it is not optimised to manage the dependencies. For example, there is no record of when a dependency was:
- Originally identified
- Last updated
- Discussed with the action owner
- Agreed."

"Without a fully effective approach to managing dependencies within the programme and between the programme and other parties, the following risks may affect some or all dependencies:
- They may not be delivered in line with the critical path
- They may not meet the quality requirements of the programme resulting in a compromised solution."

"The risk of running project boards without project board papers is that any decisions made within that forum may not be fully informed. Decisions made using incomplete information may be suboptimal."

"There is a great deal still to be done before starting the main dialogue stage and it would be a significant risk to the project to start the next stage prematurely or to decide that tasks and issues that should be completed prior to main dialogue are actually completed during the CD2 stage."

"Evidence from this review indicates that whilst many of these issues are recognised by the project team and in some cases the team have started work on them, there is a lack of clarity on when, how and by whom these issues are to be progressed."

"The RT (review team) feel that the project programme post close of CD2 is very optimistic. Milestones to achieve Contract Award by November 2012 and Service Commencement by April 2013 are possibly achievable in a best case scenario but are probably unachievable in all other scenarios."

"There are signs that the procurement process is being driven by the consultant rather than by Authority due to their much greater experience on the CD (competitive dialogue) process and clearly there are risks if that is the case.

"The programme does not have a defined and agreed issue management strategy.
This may mean that issues are not identified, managed or escalated consistently."

"Interviewees were not aware of formal thresholds for escalating risks from project level. We understand that the training pack provided to all project managers set out certain key criteria, but it was not clear that this control was operating in practice."

"For DRS, there were 17 risks categorised as “treat” – only six had defined control actions and for NSCSO, there were 37 risks categorised as “treat” – only one had a defined control action."

"Through our sample testing of risks we noted 14 out of 49 risks on the NSCSO Risk
Register did not have any scoring against them."

"Senior officers showed they were familiar with the defined internal framework to bring specialist resource onto the programme. However, project level staff did not show the same level of awareness with the contractual agreement. Increasing the awareness levels of this arrangement may lead to more effective use of key resources at critical points at project level."

At this stage alarms bells should be ringing loudly. What I want to know is why none of these reports were discussed or circulated at the Audit committee, the natural place to discuss two such critical internal audit reports on such a massive financial project.

I have been asking serious questions at the audit committee for the last two years about the One Barnet programme. This simply reinforces the immense concerns I have about the entire programme and, more importantly, the governance arrangements for the scrutiny of the process. If it transpires that these reports were withheld from the audit committee it must call into question who actually runs this council, Councillors or consultants.

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