Each quarter Shepway District Council (SDC) must publish purchase orders above £5000. SDC as we have informed you say they will not release the PO’s for inspection, while the accounts are open. What are SDC hiding when they MUST publish the purchase orders above £5000?
Local and regional government expenditure in 2013/14 was £160 billion (HM Treasury, 2014). Total estimated fraud losses amounted to £7.3 billion.
The s151 officer, who is also the Corporate Director for Organisational Change, Tim Madden has softened his stance with regards to Purchase Orders. He has written to our public face and we quote Mr Madden verbatim:
“However, I have had the opportunity to consider the matter further and the issues raised. Whilst my view has not changed, I do recognise that there is a certain grey area which creates uncertainty over the status of the purchase orders in relation to this process. In light of the intent of the legislation to provide transparency in a local authorities financial accounts, I am prepared to release purchase orders as part of this inspection process. I will re-emphasise that this is in the context of the National Audit Office guidance which requires all requests to be reasonable and proportionate. To be clear on the practicalities of this, any request to view a small number of purchase orders relating to a specific issue (up to 5) would be met (subject to commercial confidentiality and personal information not being disclosed). Any requests in excess of 5 and which were not relating to a specific item I will judge as unreasonable and will not be met. For clarity, if you still wish to pursue these documents then could you reconfirm your requests so we can properly assess them against this approach.”
Mr Madden is gracious, by offering our public face ‘up to five Purchase Orders’. However, Mr Madden and the legal team at SDC have got it wrong, utterly wrong, we believe in our honest opinion.
We have said that there is plausible suspicion of wrongdoing regarding unauthorised and fraudulent expenditure. SDC must, publish PO’s over £5000. Or are SDC saying there has not been a single purchase order over £5000 during 2015/16?
Information which must be published , every quarter, it goes on to say at page 13
Procurement information Para 32 states:
Local authorities must also publish details of any contract,
and any other legally enforceable agreement with a value that exceeds £5,000.
So purchase orders above £5000 MUST be published. If they must be published, why have SDC said PO’s are not pertinent to the accounts?
Why have they said our public face cannot see them, then changed their minds?
Why have they said, we can now see ‘up to five’ only’?
Remember, if there is an invoice without a PO it could be an indication of unauthorised or fraudulent expenditure. We can’t see the PO’s which MUST be published every quarter and they cannot be matched with their invoices, while the inspection of the accounts are open until August 12th 2016.
Has there been unauthorised and fraudulent expenditure? We’ll leave you to decide that.
Oh one last thing
SDC have said that ‘ commercial confidentiality’ applies to the Otterpool Manor Farmland Contract, Transparency Code at page 9 states:
‘The Government has not seen any evidence that publishing details about contracts
entered into by local authorities would prejudice procurement exercises or the interests
of commercial organisations, or breach commercial confidentiality unless specific
confidentiality clauses are included in contracts. Local authorities should expect to
publish details of contracts newly entered into – commercial confidentiality should not,
in itself, be a reason for local authorities to not follow the provisions of this Code.
Therefore, local authorities should consider inserting clauses in new contracts allowing
for the disclosure of data in compliance with this Code.’
So the Otterpool Manor Farmland contract with the Champneys and other landowners, can be disclosed, because SDC ‘ should consider inserting clauses in new contracts allowing for the disclosure of data in compliance with this Code.’ If they did not, why not? What were they, and what are they trying to keep away from the prying eyes of our public face and the residents of Shepway?
If you wish to contact the s151 officer Tim Madden, the CEO, Alistair Stewart, the elected leader David Monk, or the leader of the opposition Len Laws at SDC to raise any concerns you may have, they can be contacted via email at:
Or the auditor Grant Thornton at