CCI: The company that coined it in...and went bust with £3m of your money

It's difficult to identify a particular moment when - and why - things began to unravel.

CCIWarehouse2From the official Companies House documents, it's difficult to identify a particular moment when - and why - things began to unravel at Coin Co International (CCI).

From council reports and committee meetings, it's relatively easy - with hindsight, at least - how officers could have safeguarded our cash.

On the face of it, the choice of CCI was understandable: a Sussex-based company with a track record stretching across three decades.

What is less understandable is how - after CCI went into administration - Brighton and Hove City Council was owed as much as £3.3 million (see table below), more than half the £6.2 million the company owed to its "cash-and-valuables-in-transit" (CVIT) customers.

Even though money was collected daily from parking meters - and elsewhere - across the city, it appears only monthly checks were made on the company’s performance and the timeliness of payments.

As we reported last week, it could have been worse. As a result of late payments, the amount of money owed to the council by CCI reached more than £4.7 million.

At a meeting on Tuesday (September 22), members of the city council's audit and standards committee were told there were good reasons for choosing CCI:

CCI was procured through the East Sussex Procurement Hub framework for which they had already been independently selected and approved as the successful "single supplier";

CCI had provided cash-collection services for the council since 2008 and was based locally in Sussex with more than 30 years' trading experience and a range of private and public sector clients;

CCI offered greater service flexibility and a considerably better price than bigger national/global companies;

A credit rating from an external credit rating agency assessed CCI as “very low risk”.

Officers reported: "In line with industry standards, the council’s cash should have been kept separate from the contractor’s business and so kept safe. This, together with the very low risk assessment from the credit agency contributed to the view that risks associated with the financial viability of the cash-in-transit provider had been mitigated."

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 22.19.27It has, however, emerged that Baker Tilly, the insolvency administrator, has found that CCI were - unusually - processing its business transactions and clients’ cash and currency collections through the same bank accounts. In addition, CCI had "complex" business arrangements that are now subject to investigation by the National Crime Agency.

A council report concluded: "With the benefit of hindsight, however, there were indicators that could have alerted the council to the financial difficulties faced by CCI. There were fluctuations in the time taken for CCI to bank the cash it had collected and an internal review, based on a review of creditor payment days and levels of gearing, noted that this could be an indicator that CCI was struggling with cashflow."

As an unsecured creditor, the chances of the city council getting our money back range from slim to zero.