OUTRAGED residents heard last night’s audit committee meeting slam Barnet Council after it employed unlicensed security firm MetPro for five years without a formal contract.
Councillor Lord Monroe Palmer chaired the meeting and was the first to admit council bosses neglected to enforce their own rules and corporate procurement lost control.
A damning in-house report written by assistant director of finance Maryellen Salter says the failure has exposed the council to “significant” risks.
She revealed there had been no checks on the now bankrupt firm’s financial status, its insurance or criminal records of staff.
The investigation was triggered after appalled residents discovered they were secretly filmed at March’s full council meeting.
The committee agreed the report was “disappointing” and “shocking” but members of the public wanted answers.
One concerned resident asked: “Who is to blame? No one seems to be held accountable. Who is going to be disciplined?”
However, Cllr Palmer made it clear he would not be naming names.
He said: “What I have been told in law is that if I start mentioning people in name I am harming any disciplinary measures that could take place.”
Attention subsequently turned to what would be done to tackle the obvious problems.
With regards to the MetPro scandal, Ms Salter concluded the same problems could arise again due to the current lack of effective monitoring arrangements and an accurate and complete corporate contract register.
Chief executive Nick Walkley said: “I see the use of this document as a way of improvement across the authority.”
Chief finance office, Andrew Travors said: “We need to make sure all officers around the organisation are absolutely crystal clear about their rules and obligations.”
Concern was also raised about plans to continue with the controversial One Barnet programme, which aims to save the council £100 million over the next decade by allowing private companies to run many key services.
Councillor Geof Cooke, said: “There should be no thought of greatly increasing outsourcing until these problems are addressed. Carrying on regardless is reckless.”
Nevertheless, Councillor Dan Thomas, Cabinet member for resources and performance, addressed the committee saying confidently the plans would go ahead.
He said the report would help avoid similar disasters in the One Barnet scheme.
Speaking after the meeting he said: “This is a high performing council but it is not a perfect council.
“These very tough internal audit reports make it clear that there are areas we need to improve. A plan is in place to do just that and members will be making sure it is followed to the letter.”