Agenda Item No.











On 15th March 2013, potentially serious operational issues within Building Services had been brought to the attention of the Head of Accountancy and Resource Management.  Consequently, those matters were passed to Internal Audit for further investigation by the Managing Director.  The Committee noted that issues had also been raised by the recently appointed Head of Housing and Building Services.  The Director of Visible Services and Housing confirmed that, prior to this occurring, no concerns had previously been raised with him regarding the issues detailed in the report.


The audit review comprised an examination of specific allegations and a review of controls surrounding the allocation, collation, monitoring and charging of Building Services jobs, specifically relating to Mobile Working Responsive Repairs.  As far as the allegations raised were concerned, these were the subject of ongoing investigation and would be dealt with in future audit reports. 


In September 2009, Building Services had adopted a mobile working system comprising two phases.  Firstly, a mobile solution providing real time messaging and job transfer to staff (e-ConSol) and, secondly, job scheduling (Opti-Time).  A Business Improvement Initiative (BII) Report in 2011 indicated that significant benefits had been achieved, with improvements in customer satisfaction and internal control.  However, a second independent BII report produced in February 2013 contrasted significantly with the earlier report.  A number of serious concerns in relation to mobile working planning and operations were identified.  Specific observations of particular concern to Internal Audit were:


-               too many operatives

-               operatives working at half the capacity of industry standards

-               travel time not being efficient (operatives were visiting the Depot without the need to or were not where they were supposed to be)

-               the need for the entire repairs team to be evaluated and significant changes made to address the existing lack of delivery.


In addition to the above, Internal Audit had concluded that the existing staff structure could not be regarded as fit for purpose.  Lines of management were unclear and there appeared to be little accountability at any level from management to operatives.  The lack of supervision and management and the failure to challenge operatives on production levels and other practices had allowed the effectiveness of mobile working to deteriorate significantly. 


The Director of Visible Services and Housing and the Head of Housing and Building Services were in attendance at the Committee and both stressed their commitment to resolving the issues as a matter of priority.  They were looking to ensure maximum Member involvement and awareness of the proposed change process which would be instigated and they circulated for Members’ information a proposed governance structure for a Building Services Change Plan.  This would be submitted to Cabinet for approval.  The Director stressed that the system itself was well-proven and remained capable of facilitating significant savings.  The Head of Housing and Building Services indicated that, soon after joining the Authority, she had become aware of the issues.  These included structure-related concerns and an apparent lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities within the middle management structure.  She had already begun meeting with staff at various levels prior to the instigation of the formal Change Plan.  Both officers acknowledged the significance of the report and the need for cultural change within the service. 


During the ensuing discussion, several Members expressed concern regarding the fact that the issues had not been identified earlier.  However, Members also acknowledged the commitment of the Director and Head of Service and also expressed their confidence in those officers to implement the changes necessary to address the situation. 


The Managing Director was also in attendance at the meeting and stressed that she was taking the matter very seriously.  She reiterated the need to address matters relating to roles and responsibilities.  It would also be important to have the full support of the Trade Unions, who had, indeed, already been briefed and given a commitment to assisting in the process.


Members discussed the best means of dealing with any publicity regarding this matter.  Consideration was given as to whether it would be more beneficial to adopt a proactive approach and issue some kind of press release.  However, following discussion of the matter, it was agreed that the Managing Director would personally consider the best means of dealing with this particular aspect. 


The Chairman also asked that the Committee receive at a future meeting a copy of the original business case for the mobile working system and this was agreed.




(1)       T H A T the report, including the recommendations detailed at paragraphs 17 to 22, be endorsed and referred to Cabinet for approval.


(2)       T H A T further reports on progress in implementing the actions necessary to address the issues raised in the audit review be submitted to the Audit Committee by the Director of Visible Services and Housing.


Reason for recommendations


(1&2)  To keep the Audit Committee informed and to report on the findings of the Mobile Working Internal Audit Review within Building Services and to ensure that appropriate action is taken to address the issues raised.”


Attached as Appendix - Report to Audit Committee: 8th July, 2013


For Information


NB: Following a report to Cabinet on 29th July 2013, Cabinet resolved as follows (Min. No. C1444 refers):


(1)       T H A T the details of the actions to be included within a time-bound Change Plan (the list is not exhaustive at this stage) be noted.


(2)       T H A T a Working Group, led by the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety and that the proposed governance structure attached at Appendix B to the report be agreed.


(3)       T H A T a time-bound Change Plan incorporating all the actions detailed within this report be presented to the first meeting of the Working Group in September 2013.


(4)       T H A T Cabinet receive quarterly update reports on progress with the Change Plan, with the first report scheduled for December 2013.


(5)       T H A T this report and all future reports on the Change Plan be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for information.