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News and Comment August 2021

Index: 2019202020212022

20 August (Part 2) - They predicted doom and they were right

Throughout 2019 and much of last year I received a series of anonymous messages from people claiming to be working in or just retired from Bexley’s Finance Department. They all said that the then fairly new Finance Director, Paul Thorogood, was leading them to some sort of unspecified disaster. Sour grapes that Bexley had not promoted from within? It could have been.

Their complaint was that Barnet, a Conservative Council that outsourced almost everything to Capita in 2013 and employed Mr. Thorogood, introduced financial software tools known as Axiom Integra. It got Barnet into trouble in part because it failed to spot a big fraud and Bexley, now under the same management was in danger of running a similarly lax show. Reports vary as to whether Barnet Council still uses the same software.

Such systems can cost a lot of money; a Barnet blogger reported that in the years before Capita, adopting and adapting to a new system cost Barnet Council £21 million.

Mr. Thorogood must have liked the Capita software because when he slipped across to the oneSource consortium (Newham, Havering, Bexley) he persuaded them to adopt the same system. (One of several blogs on the same subject.)

The anonymous finance men claimed that oneSource soon became disenchanted with Integra Axiom and scrapped it in favour of a cloud based system at considerable cost. As last year’s informants said, Mr. Thorogood’s relationship with oneSource turned sour but luckily for him no one in Bexley asked probing questions and he was appointed to be Finance Director here just two years before the borough flirted with bankruptcy. Maybe not a good move for Paul’s reputation.

No sooner does he arrive on these shores than Bexley ditches oneSource and pays the contract exit penalty and goes it alone with a new financial software system. It’s Capita’s Axiom again! Why? They market it but don’t even use it themselves.

But if it works OK in Bexley does it matter? I asked one of the few people who still work in the Civic Offices for an update.

We are not doing too well with integra. Nothing much is happening with orders or invoices, it’s a bureaucratic nightmare made worse by redundancies among support staff.

The system is owned by Capita and as you know it was chosen by the Finance Director who used to work for Capita a few years ago and even they know it is not a lot of good and don’t even use it themselves. They use SAP. I couldn’t believe that at first but here is the proof.

Would the owner of Apple have an Android phone?

The words are changed here and there to protect the source and unless you are registered with LinkedIn you cannot read what is said there.

Is Bexley Council totally incompetent? Their Serco contract has proved to be totally inadequate and they recruit senior staff with a track record of backing the wrong horse and despite everything continue to put their, sorry, our money on the same old nag.

Where has that reputation for financial prudence gone? Did it ever exist?

I have not heard from the dispirited finance men for a long time. Probably they were put on the scrap heap along with anyone else who had the foresight to see the train crash ahead.


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