A GROUP of senior councillors and officials are set to jet off on an all-expenses-paid trip to the United States and Canada, courtesy of the company in charge of the authority’s troubled technology revamp.
Labour deputy council leader Cammy Day and chief executive Andrew Kerr are expected to lead the five-strong delegation on the visit to meet top executives of Canadian-based IT contractors CGI and see successful projects involving the company.
But critics say accepting trips for two councillors and three officials from a supplier currently under intense scrutiny from the council over its performance represents a conflict of interest and would put the authority in a compromised position.
It is understood the five-day trip in early September – which has yet to be given final approval – would take in San Diego, Los Angeles and Montreal.
Joining Cllr Day and Mr Kerr on the visit are likely to be Conservative councillor Joanna Mowat, who is convener of the council’s governance, risk and best value committee, which monitors the CGI project, director of resources Stephen Moir and another official.
Last year the Evening 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 e-mail occurring every week.
And in February a senior company representative told councillors: “CGI recognise our delivery of services has not met your expectations and we’re genuinely very sorry.”
One councillor said: “If we did want to see how it was working in other places we should pay for it rather than CGI. It would be a conflict of interest and we would put ourselves in a compromised position with a key supplier.”
Councillor Day said the trip had yet to be approved but he believed it was a good idea.
He said he and council leader Adam McVey had met the global chief executive of CGI to tell him the company’s performance was “unacceptable” and new measures had since been put in place.
“They offered to host a delegation from Edinburgh to San Diego to see a relevant type and size of city and see how it can be successful.
“They will pay for flights, accommodation and everything else so there will be no cost to the council.
“It will be about learning what has worked and what has not worked.”
And he added: “I have asked to meet union reps and staff members and relevant politicians. I don’t want just to listen to CGI telling us how good they are.”
A council spokesman said: “The council and our IT partner CGI have been working positively together to ensure that we deliver a high performing and value for money IT service for the people of Edinburgh and our staff. This has resulted in a series of agreed improvements which are being delivered.
“As a part of our future digital strategy, we want to maximise the benefits we can bring to Edinburgh by learning from the experience of other major cities.”