An audit report highlighting inadequate controls of the council’s IT systems was dubbed “hugely worrying” by councillors this evening.
Barnet Borough Council’s Audit Committee raised concerns about the report’s findings which criticised the authority’s “lack of ownership” of its IT systems, which have been outsourced to Capita.
As part of the report, internal auditors monitored IT systems in four areas including the council’s Children’s Social Care database (ICS), Integris, a schools management information database, as well as shared drives and mailboxes.
Having done this, they concluded that the council systems are “not controlled or monitored effectively”, and stated that there is a “lack of a clear division of responsibility” between the authority and Capita.
At tonight’s meeting Councillor Geof Cooke said: “This very important contract is being kicked off and they haven’t got an agreement between the supplier and the client and for who’s responsible for what. I think that’s hugely worrying.
“If contractually it’s not defined what the supplier is giving us for our money then it’s pretty unlikely that we’re going to get what we hoped for.”
He also questioned officers about why these problems had not been resolved after they were first raised as early as 2012.
He said: “The problems were known at least two years ago, perhaps more, but it was decided not to address them because Capita were coming in, and so these very serious issues were tolerated for a significant period in the run up to the outsourcing.”
But John Hooton, deputy chief operating officer, who manages the contract on behalf of the council said: “We’re very clear in terms of our responsibilities and we’ve got a plan to deal with these issues by July.”
Concerns were also raised about data protection, and although officers said they take it “very seriously”, they admitted the fact that former staff members can still access the IT systems does pose “a risk”.
Chairman of the committee, Councillor, Lord Monroe Palmer, said: “Really we should, from an internal audit point of view, ensure that when people seize their duties they seize their access in a more definite manner.
“Clearly there’s a lack of ownership and it’s a weakness the internal audit has identified.”
Council officers said they hoped to deal with all the issues by the next Audit Committee meeting in July when they hope the matter will have moved from having "no assurance" to "satisfactory assurance".