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  • Armchair Auditor – Local Council Payments

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    June 17th, 2010Neil HData, Public Data

    Last week I commented on the proposal that councils would have to publish their payments made to suppliers that were over £500. You can see my full thoughts, here – Local Data – Payment Publishing Response.

    This week, it appears that Adrian Short, has taken the data released from Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, and produced Armchair Auditor.

    This is a website that simply takes the CSV information provided by the council, pulls it into a database, and allows you to examine it by Directorate (Services), and Supplier (Company paid for delivering a service). It is quite nice and easy to use, and you can simply see that, for instance, Capita Business Services Ltd were paid 15 times, totalling £52,493 between Sept 2009 and March 2010, the average amount of each payment was £3,499.

    It also highlights the fact that the Supplier Master may give you a bit more information than you currently have. As Capita are shown as:

    • Capita Business Services Ltd
    • Capita Education Resourcing
    • Capita Education Services Ltd
    • Capita Software Services
    • Capita Training Ltd

      So it looks like these are related businesses, indeed seperate companies, but the ultimate beneficial owner maybe ‘Capita Group PLC’. It also shows that payments were made to Capita Education Resourcing and Capita Education Services. These may actually be one company, and just different divisions within the company structure. If you had a full supplier master, it’s likely that these different suppliers will have an indicator to show that they are ‘related’.

      A quick check at Companies House doesn’t actually show a result for Capita Education, nor some of the others. For instance Capita Education Resourcing is a trading name of Capita Resourcing Ltd, likewise this may be the same for Education Services.  Companies may be trading under many different names, all of which are actually present as different suppliers in the system, therefore the actual company may be receiving more funds from the council than you presume at first thought.

      All of the above was found through a quick play with Armchair Auditor, it shows the strength of the tool at being able to get to the data quickly, and concisely as well as being able to direct someone to your findings with relative ease.

      Whilst at the same time, we can see the challenge at understanding the data, especially when you start to look across councils and try and answer questions like ‘How much is supplier X getting paid for services bought by councils across the country’. I’ll discuss approaches for how you might deal with that situation another day.

      For now, I’m going to look at the work Adrian has done, and see what else might be interesting within it.

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    2 Responses to “Armchair Auditor – Local Council Payments”

    1. I’ve taken a slightly different approach to Adrian when importing the spending data to OpenlyLocal, looking not just at Windsor & Maidenhead but also at the data from the other two authorities that have released spending data, the GLA and Richmond.

      We’ve also matched up suppliers with actual companies (using CompaniesOpenHouse). Together, this allows us to compare spending with companies across several councils (where, of course, it’s possible to identify companies from the supplier names), e.g. with this company.

      In addition, all the data is available as open data via the API.

    2. BIOLAP now has details of more than 50 councils’ payments to suppliers over £500 on its free Council Expenses Dashboard at – http://www.biolap.co.uk/index.php/councilexpenses.html

      Users can slice and dice, compare and sort the data as well as drill through to underlying transaction details.

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