Members seek reassurance that safeguards are in place for major projects

The Corporate Arrears Recovery System Project was to purchase a system which would allow the Council to link all its debtors’ associated debts into one system. Funding for the project was approved in 2012, however the project was abandoned in October 2014 at a cost of £287,565. An internal audit investigation was undertaken to ascertain why the project had failed and what lessons could be learned for future ICT projects. The internal audit made seven recommendations.

Large ICT projects are controlled by project boards, with established protocols in place, and they are monitored by a programme board.

Director of Finance, Derek Yule said: “The Corporate Arrears Recovery System Project was aimed at a providing a more effective service and corporate approach to debt management. The system should have improved debt recovery and increased income to the Council. As such it was the right thing to do, but as with any large investment projects,  there are risks attached. The Council needs to continue to be innovative to provide effective services and value for money, with appropriate governance measures. Things can go wrong and when they do, it is important to learn the lessons and be open and transparent about these.”

Chair of the Resources Committee, Cllr Bill Fernie said: “Members are quite rightly very concerned at this financial loss and at how this came about. Governance and reporting was found not to be of the level and standard required and Members need to be reassured that there are robust measures in place which prevent anything like this happening again.

“It is extremely important, however, that lessons are learned here and that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect public money.  I have asked for a review of the governance of current projects and that officers have explored all available options to the Council to minimise the loss.

“We want to see innovative projects coming forward, but project managers must feel able to come forward with problems and to be open if they make mistakes. That said, this is a rare example of a project failing. Most have gone on to bring business benefits to the Council.”

Members of Resources Committee agreed that there should be additional training to support Members and Project staff.

26 Aug 2015