Barnet Council contractor Capita fails to act on ‘priority’ anti-fraud recommendation

Cllr Alison Moore has called for an investigation. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Cllr Alison Moore has called for an investigation. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Barnet councillors have hit out at outsourcing giant Capita for failing to act on a “high priority” recommendation made after a former employee stole £2million.

After an independent report into the circumstances that led to ex-worker Trishul Shah being jailed for fraud, Capita signed up to a number of recommendations – one of which was a review of controls over BACS money transfers to new council suppliers.

The action was recorded as “complete” at a November meeting of the council’s audit committee.

But at a meeting earlier this month it was revealed it had not taken place after all – something that was blamed on a single Capita worker who failed to tell anyone to do it.

Opposition councillors have called for an investigation.

Labour audit spokesperson Cllr Alison Moore said: “We are six months on from the publication of the report, and our last update said this action had been submitted and verified for testing. It is completely unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, at the meeting, Conservative backbencher Cllr Laithe Jajeh said: “That one employee at Capita was able to scupper that is really worrying.”

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Councillors and officers at the meeting also expressed concern at the number of one-off payments being made, as these are not subject to the same checks as recurring payments.

A Barnet Council spokesperson said: “Action has been taken to implement this recommendation, but the council is not yet able to verify that the new process is working effectively.

“We are working with Capita to ensure that the implementation of this recommendation is completed and verified as quickly as possible.”

A Capita spokesperson said: “We temporarily delayed the implementation of one of the Grant Thornton recommendations because it could have delayed payments to our new suppliers.

“We have now implemented this recommendation, and are working with the council to review and amend the process where necessary to ensure it maintains the integrity of financial controls but minimises any negative impact on suppliers.”

Shah, 38, worked for Regional Enterprise Ltd, formed as part of Barnet’s 10-year contract with Capita. He was jailed for five years in August for making 62 fraudulent payments relating to fake compulsory purchase orders.