Barnet Capita fraud: Auditor admits internal failings amid row over redacted documents

Labour leader Barry Rawlings

Labour leader Barry Rawlings - Credit: Archant

A fractious meeting of Barnet Council’s audit committee saw a top internal auditor admit that the council did not spot fraudulent CPO orders made by disgraced worker Trishul Shah because the audit process was not detailed enough.

Cllr Alison Moore. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Cllr Alison Moore. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Caroline Glitre, the council’s chief internal auditor, also said the council had overhauled procedures and implemented a “risk-based sampling methodology” to prevent this happening again.

Ms Glitre said: “In hindsight I wish we had looked at it in more detail. I wish we had looked at the supporting documents.”

She told the meeting there had been an assumption that Shah’s superiors would have checked to make sure the orders were legitimate before signing them off, but this had not been the case.

Earlier in the meeting tempers in the chamber frayed over whether or not the council could publish redacted sections of the Grant Thornton report into the fraud. Labour’s opposition leader Cllr Barry Rawlings addressed the committee to express concern that redacting sections of the report relating to potential breaches by Capita of its deal with Barnet “does not bode well”.

He said: “Why is it being hidden both from the public and the council whether the contracts have been complied with? For me that’s not commercially sensitive. Councillors and the public should have that information.

“Is there evidence of further fraud? You don’t get reassurance from blank sheets of paper.”

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Labour’s Cllr Alison Moore moved for a vote on publishing the 14 redacted pages of the Grant Thornton report, and to the surprise of committee chair Cllr Anthony Finn and his Conservative colleague Cllr Peter Zinkin the motion passed 4-2 in favour with Tory member Cllr Alex Prager backing publication and his backbench colleage Cllr Laithe Jajeh abstaining.

Cllrs Peter Zinkin and Anthony Finn had, along with chief executive John Hooton, warned that “the law” could prevent this happening.

Cllr Zinkin said censorship was “undesirable”. He added: “At the earliest possible moment when it’s no longer subject to constraints then it should be put into the public domain.”

Responding to outbursts from the public gallery, committee chair Cllr Finn admonished the public, asking them: “Can you keep quiet a minute and listen to people who are sensible?” The committee discussed the un-redacted pages in private, but it’s not yet known if or when they will be made public.