Thursday, 14 June 2018

Financial failure - It looks like Capita run Re was a major problem

Reading the Barnet Council draft accounts I was curious to understand where the overspend in 2017/18 occurred. There was a lot of talk about the growing demands for family services and adult social care and sure enough some of the overspend was down to that. But what jumped off the page was the biggest single overspend of £3.95 million. Guess where? The Capita run Re (Regional Enterprise) contract. What I can't understand is that on a contract that is supposed to guarantee financial performance it ended up costing us nearly £4 million extra.

I have consistently said at Council meetings that there is no financial transparency on the Re contract and I keep being told not to worry.  Indeed on 27 February 2018, I raised the issued of transparency and Re's performance at the Performance & Contract Management Committee.

At that meeting the report showed that Re was overspent by £285,000 and that with a top up from reserves that brought it down to £44,000 overspend. This was apparently down to legal costs which are contractual liabilities payable by Barnet as you can see in the note below the table. Just to be clear, this was 4 weeks before year end.

So four weeks later the overspend has jumped from £44,000 to £3,954,000. I will be asking why this overspend has occurred but my concern is that it may be linked to the disputed invoice of £4.599 million identified at last year's audit.
This was due to a shortfall in guaranteed income promised by Re. At the Audit committee meeting last year I was reassured by the Director of Resources that this sum would be recoverable but I also noted that the Capita Partnership Director described it as a "disputed" amount. I blogged about it here and expressed my concern that little or none of it would be recoverable. That looks to have come true and the debt has been written off. I may be wrong but given the size of the sum and the fact that it occurred after quarter 3 results, this appears to be the most logical conclusion.

We are now at a tipping point. The CSG contract is under-performing with the Council considering bringing part of the finance function back in house; the Re contract predicated on guaranteed income appears to unenforceable. There are other matters which will come to light by the next audit meeting, which I cannot disclose at this time but which will have serious repercussion for the entire Capita contract.

Barnet must recognise the reputational and financial damage that these Capita contracts are inflicting and do the right thing. End the contracts with Capita.

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