Thursday, 21 May 2009

Barnet Council pours our money down the drain

Earlier this week I posted an article revealing how Barnet Council was spending £31,000 of taxpayers’ money on a room booking system. I then reported that a reader had used Google to find a software package costing just a few hundred Pounds.

Our friends at the Barnet Times followed up this story and interviewed the director of an internet company, Sapnagroup, who told them that his company could design a product for £2,000.

A council spokesman told the newspaper that they could not understand how the quote from Sapnagroup could be so low. Well has it occurred to anyone in the council to pick up the phone to them and find out?

The simple truth is that the council made no effort whatsoever to find out what was available in the market. The report authorising the purchase of the £31,000 gold plated system states that the council spoke to just four potential suppliers “based on preliminary research using contacts from other Councils and organisations with a similar requirement.”

When the Conservatives won control of Barnet in 2002, then leader Victor Lyon said that the council would run like a business. No business would operate in this way. They would soon go bust if they did. If you want to buy a dog, you go and talk to someone in a pet shop. If you want a new wide screen television, you visit a few retailers and look up information on the internet. If you want to buy some specialist software, go and talk to a software development company.

Barnet Council did not take even these basic steps. One of my readers found a software package costing a few hundred pounds on the internet. It might not do everything the council wants, but why not call up the manufacturer and ask how much it would cost to modify the program?

Barnet has now been told in clear and unequivocal terms by an expert that they are spending far too much money. The real question is whether the council will now go back to the drawing board and start the tendering process again, or carry on regardless pouring our money down the drain?