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Wednesday
Feb272013

Track24 - the back story

Let me make one thing quite clear from the start – there will be no talk of ‘dogs’ on this site from now on. I have responded to a complaint from Greg De Laborde in relation to my post on his Track24 software product. (‘Track24 – The Background Story’ 25 February 2013) by taking it down this morning just prior to my departure for the public meeting in Whitianga. I told Greg that I would deal with his complaint on my return.

I agree with Greg that the original post was unfair, and I have told him that I would re-write the story to remove some of what he found objectionable, but at the same time informed him that there are two sides to the story that need to be told, and I intend to do so regardless of implied threats.

Blogs are by definition commentaries – some people will be upset, and others happy that information once edited out of other media to the extent of making them worthless is now ‘out there’. God forbid that this blog, or any other for that matter should allow itself to be squeezed to the point where credibility is an issue, and I don’t intend to allow that to happen here.

Okay, with that out of the way, what is the story?

Deloitte’s wrote a report that contained the following statement (page 32 para 1):

“Track 24 is the project monitoring system that is currently being used by Council management to track the progress and financial spend on all capital works. We have identified that this system is currently not automatically interfaced with the Council General ledger. As a result Track24 information does not reconcile to the general ledger work in progress accounts and has not done so for the duration of the Mercury Bay Sports Complex project”.

That would seem pretty clear, and note that it is contained in a report that has been “proofed” by Council staff before release on 20 February at the insistence of the Mayor and Council, but subject to a plethora of disclaimers by Deloitte’s.

That’s it as far as I am concerned,  and whether or not consultation has taken place with Greg De Laborde, it is a matter of record, and I am entitled to report it exactly as it appears. If Mr De Laborde has any argument with that then he should approach Deloitte’s, or the Council who indemnified Deloitte’s against any legal action that may ensue. As a ratepayer, that concerns me, but it does not prevent me from publishing – end of story.

There are the two sides of the story to date that have been provided to me from a number of reliable sources – they do not coincide precisely, but they do present a coherent picture that I am sure represents something close to the truth:

  1. Track 24 was introduced in 2007 over strong objection from certain quarters in service delivery, accounts and IT itself.
  2. The objectors based their concerns on – ‘it did not work” (SD), “it did not interface” (Accounts), and “It has not gone through the correct procurement process” (IT)
  3. The system did not, and I emphasize this statement, did not immediately interface with the Council’s General Ledger, despite claims to the contrary.
  4. It took until late 2012 for repairs to be made to the system to enable an effective interface to be achieved.
  5. I have it very good authority from a number staff in different functional areas that Deloitte’s claim on Page 32 of their Report is untrue to the extent that it now works.
  6. Greg De Laborde’s complaint that Deloitte’s never sought to discuss their claim with him is legitimate, and reprehensible in the circumstances, but it is his problem.
  7. This does not gainsay the fact that there is plenty of evidence that Track24 did not work properly at the outset, and that several staff therefore resisted using it.
  8. Gordon Reynolds was clearly one of who dug in his heels and established his own spread-sheet system, not for the first time, which was ultimately his downfall.   
  9. Despite repeated demands that all staff toe the line and get in behind Track 24, historically that has not been the case, and chaos has ensued.                                                                           
  10. It took over a year for David Hammond to come to terms with the situation, and put his foot down regarding universal use of Track 24, for better or worse.                                                             
  11. It seems that despite Deloitte’s claim to the contrary, the system is now completely functional and Hammond’s directions are now being followed.

Questions have to be asked as to why Steve Baker allowed this situation to fester for as long as it did. Regardless of his ‘report’ (Pam Howat), Steve must have understood that resistance to the use of, and consequent failure of Track24 was creating a huge element of risk that could put the entire capital works program at risk. And I say that as a huge admirer of what Steve has achieved since his arrival in Council, having to face up to archaic accounting and reporting systems.  It is simply not credible that he found his ability to correct this Track24 situation stymied by the ridiculous reporting situation that he found on his arrival.

Leach’s claim that he corrected this situation regarding Steve’s  ‘Report’ (Howat instead of Ruru to whom he should have been reporting from day one) is perfectly true, but he was not the first – every councillor and staff member present will confirm that I endeavoured to overturn this from my first meeting in 2008. Ruru resisted for reasons best known to himself - he appeared to either want the separation preserved, or was incapable of changing the structure, no matter how overdue.

Leach’s loud and insistent complaint that “No-one – not the previous Mayor, councillor or staff told me of the Sports-complex situation when I arrived” is made all the more ridiculous when one considers the respective obligations of elected and paid staff. It seems to me that if Ruru failed to alert Leach to the situation, then it was certainly up to Steve Baker to raise it in one of the many staff meetings that followed Leach’s election.

Again, Leach’s insistence that the 2007-10 Audit Committee failed to respond to Deloitte’s 2009 Report on Contracting is preposterous. In the first place, Graham Naylor sat on the Committee, and although he excused himself as conflicted when it was received, he certainly participated subsequently, when follow up was entirely in the hands of staff – and since when was implementation of recommendations of this nature a governance matter?

What is also clear is that there has been deliberate obfuscation and concealment of the truth by staff over a very long period. The true situation has been withheld from Council and its committee's - in particular, the Service Delivery Committee that for some reason has now folded under the current Council – why?. Effusive praise from Auditor General staff over a long period for the manner in which Council's accounting systems and procedures have operated further detracts from confidence in their procedures and reports. Deloittes have at least put their 'toe in the water'. Where was, or is the AG?

Staff need to be held accountable, and it is to be hoped that this does not take an inordinate length of time. If it requires the 'second and secret' Deloitte Report to remain confidential in order for this to occur, so be it. But let no-one imagine that this latest debacle can be swept under the carpet. What remains to be seen is just how those to whom the person or persons concerned were managed. Was the direct line manager aware of what was going on over several years, and what action did he take to bring this person or persons into line?

That is the question that the Chief Executive needs to be asking at this point, and taking appropriate action. No amount of shilly-shallying and blame being placed on previous councils will obscure these facts. And having identified the problem, what assurances can be given that it is not being repeated in other projects for which Council is responsible?

 

 

 

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