CONTROVERSIAL plans for a trip by council chiefs to the United States and Canada next month have been scrapped after they were revealed by the Evening News.
Two councillors and three officials were set to go on a five-day visit to San Diego, Los Angeles and Montreal, paid for by IT contractors CGI, the company in charge of the troubled revamp of the council’s technology systems.
The trip was intended to let councillors see successful CGI projects in action and meet top executives of the Canadian-based contractors.
But critics claimed accepting flights, hospitality and any other expenses from a company which was under intense scrutiny from the council was a conflict of interest and would put the authority in a compromised position.
Council sources said CGI had withdrawn the invitation for next month’s trip because of “adverse publicity”.
But today the council insisted the trip could still go ahead at a later date.
Deputy council leader Cammy Day and Tory councillor Joanna Mowat, who is convener of the governance, risk and best value committee, which monitors the CGI project, were lined up for the visit, along with council chief executive Andrew Kerr, director of resources Stephen Moir and another official.
The proposed trip was expected to go to committee for approval a couple of weeks ago, soon after the Evening News revealed the plans on July 30, but it did not appear on the agenda.
Last year the News revealed how the council’s new computer system was in disarray with key components up to 18 months behind schedule and “critical failures” including loss of internet and email occurring every week.
And in February CGI apologised to the council, saying it recognised its delivery of services had not met expectations.
The council said the company’s performance had since improved and insisted the trip would have given councillors and officials an insight into what CGI could achieve and helped build relations.
Cllr Day said he wanted to make sure he met union reps and staff members and relevant politicians in the cities they were due to visit and did not just accept CGI’s version of how projects were working.
And he rejected the argument that the council would be compromised by allowing a supplier to meet the costs of the proposed visit.
Yesterday the council said the plans for a trip next month would no longer go ahead after “some correspondence” with CGI, but said a similar trip could still happen in future.
There is understood to be a feeling among council leaders that such a visit would be “worthwhile” and having issued the invitation CGI “should follow through on it”.
A council spokesman said: “We are working closely with CGI to ensure they bring best practice to the council, enable better performance and deliver more value for money.”