At Audit & Standards Committee on 19 September 2017, recommendations were made that the Housing service should review and resolve (in conjunction with the contractor) discrepancies between work carried out and the charges for electrical work under the Term Partnering Agreement between the Council and Mears Ltd, (now Mears Group Plc). Updates were provided to Audit & Standards Committee on 9 January 2018 and 27 March 2018.
Discrepancies Between Work Carried Out & Charges To BHCC
In 2016/17 finance officers raised queries about the charges levied relating to work undertaken in a number of categories, including domestic rewires, as part of the Contract. These queries were initially investigated as a desktop exercise by Housing, who reviewed the contract and works order information stored within the Mears job management system (“MCM”). The results were flagged up with Internal Audit colleagues who carried out a small number of site visits alongside Housing surveyors to verify the accuracy of the data. There is concern that this issue would have been overlooked, had it not been for the Conservative Group tabling an amendment. The Conservative amendment changes the original recommendation for the Committee to simply ‘note’ the report; to ‘note’ it would have effectively waved through the report with no further scrutiny or action.
Claims & Counterclaims
Conservative Councillors grew suspicious when the claims made against Mears were essentially cancelled out, completely, by counterclaims lodged by Mears against BHCC. The Conservative amendment deferred the next Audit and Standards Committee: when full internal legal advice can be brought to the Committee to support officers positions: and assure the Committee that the Council have fully protected tenants money in every way it can, and BHCC do not in fact have a claim against Mears.
Cllr Miller raised this issue back in January, and has been fighting for justice long before that. You can read his January article here.