Slammed over £750k council contract

Central Beds Council ENGPNL00120140402162010
Central Beds Council ENGPNL00120140402162010

A damning report has called into question the process Central Beds Council used to award a £716,000 contract.

A damning report has called into question the process Central Beds Council used to award a £716,000 contract.

The internal audit committee examined the arrangements that were in place when the council appointed EC Harris to carry out consultancy work.

While the report says there is no evidence of wrongdoing, it highlighted a number of concerns and concluded that it was unable to say whether value for money had been achieved due to a lack of evidence and transparency.

It added that the overall governance, budget management and contract management of the council’s framework agreement was impaired, and noted that no completed declaration of interests forms had been made available to it during the course of the review.

And while EC Harris employees were ‘embedded’ in the department that awarded the contract, Central Beds said none were involved in managing the contract.

EC Harris was one of just two companies to respond to the tender process, which lasted three weeks; a fact the report says could have excluded other potential suppliers.

The report states that its conclusion was based on the information available to the internal audit, but that “as a consequence of the original lead officer and other key officers having left the council, in many instances there was a lack of documentary evidence for review and analysis.”

Cllr Adam Zerny, who called for the review, said: “The report highlights some major concerns with the way the council has run the tender process and the potential for conflicts of interest.

“As I drew the council’s attention to these issues last summer I’m surprised it has taken them so long to act and that no one seems to be responsible for what has happened.”

Cllr Mauricee Jones, deputy leader of the council, said that robust mechanisms are now in place to prevent the same thing happening again.

He said: “We are always striving to provide great value and we have worked hard over the past months to reduce the financial risk associated with this contract.

“It is important to us that our procedures are as transparent as possible, which is why we have submitted the full report of the review as part of the published minutes on our website for anyone to view.”