Thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money lost over two weeks due to alleged software error.
Following reports that Veolia have been falsely marking Clean Camden reports as completed, Camden have asked Veolia to conduct an investigation.
Issues with reports being falsely marked as complete have already been commonly reported throughout Camden. Veolia have claimed that it was an ‘error’ with the software used to run the Clean Camden app, called ‘Echo’, which is used by Veolia throughout the country.
These issues have led to people being reluctant to use the Clean Camden app, some calling it a ‘black hole’.
After multiple concerns were raised about reports in WC1 being falsely marked as completed, along with similar issues as far afield as Kilburn, Veolia have been asked to investigate the possibility of wrongdoing.
Convincing evidence has been supplied that reports have been falsely marked as completed. It remains to be seen whether the investigation will find the software error the cause of these problems.
It became clear that the alleged software error was unlikely to be the cause after correlations appeared in the type, location, and time of reports that were being falsely completed. After every lamppost on Tavistock Place was reported for fly posting, each report was marked as completed within a few minutes, but it later emerged that only a handful of stickers had been removed of more than a hundred.
Around two dozen reports of fly posting were marked as completed within a few minutes, whilst other nearby reports were unaffected.
The software error appears to principally affect the sticker removal team and the street cleansing team. The fly tip removal team are unaffected.
A new type of ‘error’ has begun to emerge where reports are immediately marked as ‘in progress’ for days until being marked as ‘completed’. After an investigation, it was found that these reports had not been completed either.
Veolia were asked to respond after initial concerns were raised.
Their response was to the effect that many reports were unjustified and that in some instances, it is impossible to remove stickers without causing damage, and that it is not possible to remove the adhesive left behind by stickers.
We have recommended the use of label remover in the future which removes the possibility of causing damage, and will also remove adhesive. Currently Veolia use a combination of scraping and pressure washing to remove stickers.
The damage to public property caused by Veolia’s sticker removal team is another cause for concern that we are looking to rectify. Veolia have reasoned that it is not part of their contract to repair street furniture.
Why is this Happening?
It is of course a possibility that indeed a software error has been causing these issues, but after unusual correlations emerged in a sample of 250 reports this is now highly unlikely.
Exceeding response times on Clean Camden reports can lead to a deduction in Camden’s payment to Veolia. Taking longer than a week to respond to a report of non-offensive fly posting currently leads to a deduction of £34.18.
It was found that the reports on Tavistock Place were marked as completed less than 24 hours before their deadline. If the app had not been affected by the alleged software error, a deduction of £615.33 would have applied.
Calculations suggest that upwards of £1400 of taxpayers’ money has been lost to this software error with regards to fly posting alone in Bloomsbury, in the past fortnight.
It is more difficult to estimate the cost with regard to street cleansing, as it is less easy to prove whether sweeping has taken place.
Currently a failure to sweep a road within the required response times can lead to a deduction of £79.76.
Response times vary depending upon the type of road. The maximum response time for any road is 18 hours, but can be as low as 6 hours.
The sweeping service seems to be the most affected by the new software error, whereby reports are left ‘in progress’. Currently, at least 40 reports are affected in Bloomsbury, and most have been left ‘in progress’ for more than a week.
If deadlines had been missed on these reports, a deduction of at least £3000 would have applied.
It is unknown whether that by keeping reports ‘in progress’ deductions are avoided.
In total perhaps more than £4000 has been lost to this error in the space of a fortnight.
20:34 – 08/11/2019
All figures quoted in this article are accurate at the time of writing. Deductions are based on the cost of one hour’s administrative labour which is subject to variation.