Outsourcing firm Capita has been told to “sort out” shortcomings in the process used to buy in services for Barnet Council.

Councillors raised concerns after a report flagged up “limited assurance” for compliance with the rules that are designed to ensure the council gets value for money from its contracts.

Issues included “minimal” take-up of staff training for procurement and “inconsistent” completion of declaration of interest forms.

The findings – one of which was classed as high risk and eight as medium risk – were presented in a report to the council’s audit committee on Wednesday.

Barnet Council’s procurement is partly outsourced to Capita under the customer and support group (CSG) contract.

Speaking during the meeting, Cllr Alison Moore (Labour, East Finchley) said one of the issues had been ongoing for “quite a number of years”.

She added: “While I’m pleased to hear that Capita CSG are willing to work with officers, I must say it has been a long path – and what concerns me, particularly, is that this sort of work should have been core bread-and butter issues for Capita CSG, and we seem to be consistently finding process problems.”

Ashley Hughes, assistant director of finance at Barnet Council, said he was “fairly confident” that an improvement plan that had been put together with CSG procurement was “robust”. “I intend to make sure everything that is in it is embedded, going forward,” he added.

Cllr Arjun Mittra (Labour, East Finchley) raised concerns over the low uptake of training and CSG officers being unable to remember attending face-to-face training, as identified in the audit report.

Cllr Mittra said it had been a consistent problem that staff turnover at Capita was high, and the people who replaced those who were leaving did not seem to have the benefit of the same training. He asked if HR records were kept up to date and were able to show where staff had not had the relevant training.

Keith Hinchcliffe, head of procurement at Capita, said: “We try to provide continuous improvement, on-the-job training and react to any specific requests for training from any members of the Barnet team.”

Cllr Mittra asked who was proactively checking that people had the necessary training.

Anisa Darr, the council’s director of finance, said it was managers’ responsibility to check staff had training, and this would be “clearly articulated” in the improvement plan.

Cllr Laithe Jajeh (Conservative, Hale) warned that Barnet was “suffering, potentially” because while issues were being spotted, there was a “missing link somewhere” in terms of delivering on plans to address them.

Mr Hinchcliffe sought to reassure the committee that the problems identified in the report were being addressed.

But Cllr Jajeh said: “There are some significant issues found by internal audit, and hearing that processes have been put in place – I hear this every single time. Stop it happening. It’s embarrassing. Sort it out, basically.”

The finance committee recently agreed a review of Barnet Council’s multi-million pound deals with Capita to determine which services should be extended, reprocured or brought in-house at the end of the original contract term in 2023.

READ MORE: Review of Capita contracts agreed by Barnet councillors