Serious failings by Barnet Council over security company revealed

� A damning audit report has confirmed that Barnet security firm MetPro Rapid Response never had a formal contract with the council despite being paid almost �1.4million of taxpayers’ money since 2006.

The firm did not have the appropriate legally required security industry authority licences for all its employees, the report reveals.

And the council could not find any recorded confirmation that it had enquired about the existence of these licences, the findings said.

The audit confirms that MetPro was first employed by the council in 2006, as reported by the Ham&High in April. While records show the need for a contract was noted at this time, no tender for one was put together.

In 2009, security arrangements were reviewed at the council and again a need for a contract was identified but again no procurement exercise took place.

Almost �1.4million was paid to MetPro through 156 invoices, 50 of which revealed serious failings in the processing of payments. No timesheets or documentation that the firm was fulfilling its role properly could be found. On some invoices, the agreed hourly rate of �16 was changed, while on others larger numbers of officers than the agreed two were listed for payment. All invoices were still paid.

In 2011, MetPro went unchallenged when it changed its bank details to MetPro Emergency Response and still invoiced twice as MetPro Rapid Response in March 2011, despite that company being in liquidation.

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Kathy McGuirk, of Barnet Labour group, said: “It seems that people have taken the eye off the ball here. But it is outrageous when it comes to employing people for hands-on – sometimes literally – front-line services, without a contract, leaving the public unprotected.”

Audit committee chairman Lord Monroe Palmer said: “I would love to have an absolutely barnstorming investigation where we deal with absolutely everything in this audit. However, I am a Liberal Democrat chairman in a Tory-run council.

“I am going to bring out as much as possible at the committee meeting but I don’t want the rug pulled out from under me before that meeting. It will all be there. People can ask any questions and I will ensure that officers there will seek to answer those questions.”