This week's audit papers give 5 different service areas either 'no assurance' or 'limited assurance' ratings, including People Management where auditors found two high priority areas for improvement that echo failures in the MetPro scandal.
For People Management auditors found that:
- Recruitment of agency staff – approval: There is no requirement for the order of agency staff on the Comensura system to be approved by a more senior officer. There is therefore a risk that agency staff may be appointed without appropriate approval. This may not be in-line with the Council’s scheme of delegation and lead to inappropriate use of the Council’s resources.
- Recruitment of agency staff – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks: There are no checks performed by the Council to ensure that all pre-employment checks have been completed on agency staff by Comensura, in particular, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. There is therefore a risk that agency staff may be inappropriately employed, leading to breaches of procurement policy, potential safeguarding issues, increased fraud risk and reputational damage.
During the investigation of the MetPro scandal auditors found that contract procedure rules had not been followed allowing a contract to be renewed without proper authority. Auditors also found that the council had not checked if MetPro had undertaken Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks on staff it employed.
Audit Committee Member and Labour councillor, Geof Cooke said: "It is worrying that these sorts of failures are still being picked up by auditors - particularly when we were told that outsourcing services like procurement, financial management and HR would provide additional resources and expertise to iron out weaknesses in the system.
"Barnet spends millions of pounds each year on agency staff - money that could go towards protecting frontline services - so it's crucial to get control of this expenditure, and to make sure where agency spend is necessary that all employment checks are done."