Wednesday 15 September 2010

Secrecy and Expensive Consultants

Mr Reasonable has been very concerned about the cost of consultants being used for Future Shape project. On Monday I went along to the Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee to ask a question about the appointment of a company called Agilysis who have been awarded a contract as "Implementation Partner". I had previously tried to ask this question at the Future Shape Scrutiny Committee meeting in August but because this specific contract wasn't on the agenda I wasn't allowed to ask the question.On Monday night Cllr Jack Cohen had asked a general question about this contract so because it was now on the agenda I had the chance to ask my question. When awarding these contracts the council allocate scores for quality and cost for each bid. My concern was that none of the bids got particularly high quality scores. I asked questions about the process and in particular were councillors happy that a contract costing "in excess of £500,000" was awarded to a company with a comparatively low quality score. What came out eventually was that there is no quality threshold on these bids. Whoever gets the highest score wins the bid even if the quality score is low. I know this may sound a bit dull but if the Council are going to spend huge amounts on consultants, then surely they should be of a high quality. As a member of the public you get no opportunity to enter a debate on this matter so I waited until Cllr Jack Cohen asked his question. Having already lit the blue touch paper councillors were now keen to understand much more about this contract. Much talk about blue sheets and things that members of the public shouldn't know about. At one stage Mr Reasonable was asked to leave the room so councillors could discuss the actual costs of this contract. We can't be trusted to know what the maximum cost will be. £1 million, £2 million, or even more - I don't know but your councillors do. So we, the residents and ratepayers of Barnet are not allowed to know how much the council are spending on consultants! Cllr Jack Cohen also asked questions about what these consultants are actually going to do. Quite a bit of management speak but puzzled looks from councillors. The question was asked again but to no avail. So there you have it; a contract for consultants that we aren't allowed to know the cost and for which councillors don't understand what they are going to do! Only in Barnet.


  1. You should serve notice under the Audit Commission Act 1998 to force the council to provide you with copies of invoices for Consultants. They cannot refuse such a request.

  2. DCMD, The Barnet Bugle was so incensed by the response at the meeting that he immediately submitted an FOI request. We will wait and see if they spill the beans.

  3. Forget FOI requests! The council will try and claim that the information is exempt. Under the Audit Commission Act, you have the right to see the actual invoices whether the council likes it or not.