Saturday, 16 June 2018

ICO Judgement - Barnet Must Release Capita Day Rates

Since the start of the Capita contract I have been concerned about the cost of "special projects" which are billed as an extra on top of the contract price agreed with Capita. In particular, these projects are charged at an agreed consultancy day rate, listed in the contract but redacted from public view. This has concerned me given the enormous size of the special projects bill. In 2016/17 special projects cost Barnet residents £16.8 million - that's on top of the core contract fee of £29.48 million they already receive.

The contract stated that the day rates would be commercially sensitive for three years so last year I duly asked for a copy so that I could see exactly how much we are being charged for each project and to assess whether we are getting value for money. While some of these projects need very specialist expertise, some could be done by salaried staff at a much lower cost as a council officer confirmed to me at a council meeting.

With Barnet having refused to provide these day rates and refusing an internal review, I took my complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). After some prolonged deliberation they initially came back saying that Capita had stated that disclosure would undermine their ability to compete in the market place. Barnet Council also objected saying that disclosure would undermine their ability to secure other consultancy at competitive rates. I argued that if the day rates were higher than the marketplace then we should know and it might encourage Barnet to renegotiate them with Capita. If they were low it would help to drive down rates from other consultancy contracts. I made it clear to the ICO that Barnet was under severe financial pressures and keeping the details of such a large cost secret was not appropriate especially as both Capita and Barnet had signed a contract saying the day rates would be released after three years,  a contract to which residents may not be a signatory but are definitely a stakeholder.

After another prolonged period I heard last Friday that the ICO had ruled in my favour and required Barnet to publish the day rates. They have now published the full judgement on the ICO website. You can read it in full here. I wait to see if Barnet appeal the decision or publish the information.

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