LABOUR'S FINANCIAL CATASTROPHE – COUNCIL IN THE DOCK AS AUDIT COMMISSION SLAMS COUNCIL OVER £10 MILLION IT OVERSPEND

An astonishingly damning report by the Audit Commission on Haringey Council’s handling of its controversial Tech Refresh project has heavily criticised the Labour-run council.

The shocking report, sent to councillors this week, details a massive £10.6 million projected overspend on the ‘Tech Refresh’ IT project . The overspend alone amountsto some 11% of all the money Haringey charges in Council Tax this year. Tech Refresh was originally due to be completed by October 2004 at a cost of £9 million, and the Audit Commission has written to Haringey setting outits stinging criticism over the Council’s handling of the project.

The Audit Commission’s reportdescribes the failureof Labour-controlled Haringeyin many areasof the project’s development, commenting thatsome project board membersfailed to regularly attend meetings andthat there was inadequatemonitoring by Corporate Finance of either budget setting or budgetary control.

What has really alarmed the Lib Dem opposition is the criticism of the Labour-run Council for showing little evidence of ‘timely, transparent and accurate reporting of project slippages and overspends’ or ‘clear audit trails’.

Haringey’s ruling Labour councillors, supposedly in charge, did little or nothing to address the problems. Lib Dems also say that they have been giving misleading answers by Labour bosses about the scale of the disaster. In the most recent case, Cllr David Winskill, who is one of the Council’sOverview and Scrutiny Board members , requested details from the Executive Member for Organisational Development, Cllr Takki Sulaiman, at a scrutiny meeting last Octoberaboutthe original Tech Refresh budget, what the current budget is and how any “potential slippage” will impact the budget.

To Cllr Winskill’s amazement, Cllr Sulaiman claimed that the current budget was £5.5 million and the original budget was just £5 million. Yet, by then, Haringey Council knew of the scale of the problems. Cllr Neil Williams is writing to the Council and the Audit Commission to raise this and many other concerns.

Cllr Neil Williams (Highgate) comments:

“The staggering scale of the mismanagement of this project and its extraordinary cost, simply beggars belief. There is no doubt also that there has been a catalogue of attempts, at almost every level, to conceal the scale of this financial catastrophe for the Council. Costscould escalate further. Haringey Labour must be held to account for this utter shambles.”

Cllr David Winskill (Crouch End) adds.

“This whole project has been a fiasco and the Haringey Executive should hang its head in shame. I will be asking Overview and Scrutiny to demand that Cllr Sulaiman comes and explains his grossly misleading answers to my questions. I feel that there should be a full review of this project to see whether it is capable of delivering what it was originally intended to do. I wonder if we have passed the point where we are now throwing good money after bad.”