£6.2 million pounds worth of contracts in 2019/20 were issued by Folkestone & Hythe District Council, using waivers and citing urgency and expediency.
In total, 49 contracts in 2019/20 were issued bypassing the standard tendering process. To put that another way, 20% of all contracts were awarded using waivers in 2019/20. Each of these contracts bypassed the normal tendering rules.
One of those companies was Envirocure Limited. Yes it was they who won a contract for “Mobile phones” to the value of £97,208, even though they describe themselves as “Legionella Hygiene Specialists“.
The value of the contracts which by passed normal contract standing order procedures was £43,419 and £60,314, so more than 50% of the value of all three contracts were given to a company for “Mobile Phones” work.
Then there is Kent Plastering Contractors Ltd, who won a contract to provide “Equipment/Furniture – New” to the value £57,224. This contract by passed the normal tendering process. But as you guessed Kent Plastering contractors do not provide Equipment or Furniture, according to their website
Orange Ora Consultancy won a contract; which also bypassed normal standard tendering process, and was issued on a waiver to the value of £106,000. This was to help the council’s transformation project, which we have been writing about since Dec 2017. So why the urgency, or expediency?
The dictionary definition of expediency is – “doing what is convenient rather than what is morally right.”
Recently, Cllr Jim Martin was shocked Folkestone & Hythe District Council had issued one contract for £120,000 to Tibbalds to prepare detailed plans for phase one of the Otterpool Park development, on a waiver.
A waiver is defined at part 10.2 s13 of the Council’s constitution. They make it clear that urgency and expediency are the main reasons for using a waiver on procuring a contract.
Between 2016/17 and 2018/19, the council used waivers on no less than 52 occasions with a value of the contracts in excess of £4 million.
In 2019/20, the Council used waivers on no less than 49 occasions with a contract value of £6.2 million, as we said at the beginning
Simply put, between 2016/17 and 2019/20, the council used urgency and expediency to grant contracts in excess of £10 million pounds on one hundred and one (101) occasions. Seventy one per cent (71%) of all contracts were issued using waivers since Dr Susan Priest has been Chief Executive of Folkestone & Hythe District Council (April 1st 2018).
In 2010/11 it was estimated the cost of procurement fraud to local government was £2.2 billion a year. By 2017 that figure had doubled to £4.4 billion. Since then a revised estimated figure of procurement fraud in local government has NOT been published.
In June 2020, the Ministry for Housing Communities & Local Government in its Review into the risks of fraud and corruption in local government procurement says Council’s ought to be “discouraging the use of waivers for procurement activity
unless absolutely necessary,” as they are a serious fraud and corruption risk.
Officers such as Director of Development John Bunnett, and Andy Jarrett, Strategic Development Officer, have both used the waiver regime for projects such as Princes Parade and Otterpool Park, citing urgency and expediency.
We would strongly recommend to all Cllrs, especially Cllr Jim Martin (Green) and Cllr Tim Prater (Lib Dem), all contracts which have been secured via a waiver, must in the future come before the Audit & Governance Committee as standard procedure. They also ought to go before Overview & Scrutiny Committee to be properly scrutinised.
What the excessive use of waivers demonstrates is piss poor management at the Council. Alarm bells should be ringing, but it appears they are not.
Our council fell victim to a £1.5 million fraud by P&R (the former gas contractor). They were overcharged £184,000 by M & R. And let’s not forget the theft of monies from parking machines brought to light by the public, not the council we add. Then there’s the double payments made to Leo Griggs (2 * £795,000) over the six flats at Roman Way; and double payments made to Hags Smp Ltd for the play equipment at Radnor Park.
Of course, the council is unable to generate a list of over-payments or double payments made to their suppliers. As such they CANNOT be aware of this type of fraud, meaning there is more than one type of fraud possibly happening inside our council.
We suspect Cllr Tim Prater (Lib Dem), the Cabinet Member responsible for Corruption and Fraud will not act, as he has shown his ineptitude by costing the rate payer more over the EKH single system.
Given all the facts before you, do you suspect procurement fraud or any other type of fraud is happening at Folkestone & Hythe District Council? There’s something for you to mull over on your staycation.
The Shepway Vox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime