Suppliers to Brent Council paid twice in blunder costing more than £2m
PUBLISHED: 06:45 17 September 2015
Blundering council chiefs have accidentally paid hundreds of contractors twice, to an estimated tune of more than £2million.
The error in Brent Council’s finance systems meant that 478 service suppliers received a duplicate payment last week.
The town hall is now desperately trying to claw back the money from all those affected, including 200 foster carers.
A source told the Times the overpayments totaled £2.2m, they added: “The system failed, picked up the same file and put it through again in September.
“Some foster carers are extremely happy. They got money they weren’t expecting.
“My family member phoned to ask why she got the money and was told there was a fault in the system.
“When I called the financial departments pretending I was expecting a payment, I was told all payment runs have been suspended.”
Five years ago, Brent Council standardised its payment system under a Finance Modernisation Project.
The aim was to create a single financial system for the whole council, where all support for financial transactions such as payments and income processing come from one central point.
The source added: “It was recently upgraded and this isn’t the first time it’s failed.”
Sarah Cox, from Brent Fight Back, a lobby group that campaigns for local authority funds to be used wisely, said: “Can’t they get the money back just by asking the people to return it? Maybe they’ve sacked so many people that they haven’t got enough people to handle the work that needs to be done and do it properly. They’ve made so many cuts.
“This is the same story as the health services all over again. Every time they spend millions on a new computer system it’s totally useless. It’s that same mindset of Brent Council. They keep spending money to save money and in the end it doesn’t save them money because it doesn’t work.”
Dia Chakravarty, political director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, an organisation that campaigns against wastage of public fund, added: “This is ridiculous. How can a council be quite this irresponsible with taxpayers’ money?
‘‘It will be the residents who now have to fill the financial gap created by this double payment and that is simply unacceptable. The council also needs to address questions around the error in the system which the residents have every right to askabout and have answered.”
A Brent Council spokesman said: “A technical-administrative error on Monday last week led to a duplicate payment of £2.15m to 478 trusted suppliers with whom Brent Council has a long-standing relationship.
“We have already recovered almost half the amount and expect to get back the remainder shortly. We have reviewed our systems and have identified the problem to prevent a recurrence.”