The latest estimate of contract procurement fraud in local government was £4.4 billion pounds. Between 2016/17 and 2020/21 the Council have issued one hundred and seven contract procurement waivers using urgency or expediency with a value in excess of £11 million pounds.
At yesterday’s Council’s Q & A session held on YouTube, Cllr J Martin asked the failed double glazing salesman and leader of our Council, Cllr David Drury Monk, the following question.
Can the Leader tell me how many waivers for procurement standing orders have been signed during this administration to date?
Cllr Monk’s response was 48 waivers have been used to procure goods and services in the last 20 months – May 2nd 2019 – Dec 11th 2020.
We know between 2016/17 and 2018/19 fifty two waivers had been issued by the Council using urgency and expediency as per Part 10 (Section 13) of the Council’s Constitution.
In 2019/20 the Council used 49 waivers and the value of the contracts was £6.2 million. This brings the value of all contracts issued via waiver (16/17 – 20/21) , using urgency or expediency to more than £11 million pounds.
Now Cllr Monk publicly informed Cllr J Martin that between 2nd May 2019 & Dec 11th 2020, the Council had used 48 waivers. Given that Cllr J Martin was elected on the 2nd May 2019, the number of waivers issued between 01/04/19 to 01/05/19, prior to his election was six. Minus these six waivers from the 49 waivers issued in 2019/20 means from 01/04/20 to 11/12/20, the Council have issued contracts only five waivers. Really!
We honestly believe given the track record of the Council over the last five years, the issuing of just five waivers to procure goods and services under urgency and expediency in 20/21, does not seem plausible or realistic. In fact, we honestly believe the Council are being economical with the truth, to residents and elected Cllrs.
Since Dr Susan Priest (pictured) has been the Chief Executive of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, seventy five of of one hundred and seven waivers issued in the last five financial years, or 70% of them, have been issued on her watch. This demonstrates a failure in proper management of the procurement process.
This matters as Part 10 (Section 13) of the Council’s Constitution sets out the process for waiver’s to be used
The Constitution makes clear:
All waivers from these Contract Standing Orders must be:
a) Fully documented;
b) Subject to a written report in an approved format to be submitted in advance to the relevant Head of Service which shall include reasons for the waiver which demonstrate that the waiver is genuinely required;
c) Subject to approval in advance by theS151 Officer and the Monitoring Officer, or their nominated deputies, who shall record that they have considered the reasons for the waiver and that they are satisfied that the circumstances justifying the waiver are genuinely exceptional.
So for the sake of honesty, openness and transparency will the Council publish all the fully documented written reports, as per b; and inform us who signed of the waiver, as per c, as well?
So why does this matter?
Well for one, John Bunnett, Director for Otterpool informed the Overview & Scrutiny committee in July, a procurement standing orders document has been prepared and issued for the LLP. However this document is NOT in the public domain, and this is a £2.7bn pound project.
Second, the Council didn’t find the £1.5 million fraud perpetrated by P & R; which shows their fraud policy isn’t that robust.
Third, both the Overview & Scrutiny committee and Audit and Governance committee have the powers to request reports regarding the use waivers are delivered to Cllrs of those committees. Do Cllrs on the committees have the appetite to request such reports on waivers?
Fourth, The use of one particular contractor brought in on a waiver cannot on each occasion be best value for money. The duty of Best Value for the Council is important because it makes clear that councils should consider overall value – including social value – when considering service provision. So it plays to the long-term strengths of voluntary and community groups and small businesses.
Finally, it matters because its estimated contract procurement fraud in local government cost the ratepayers an estimated £4.4 billion, which is approx £63 pounds for every many woman and child in the UK.
This is why we call upon the Council; and elected Cllrs to request the publication of all contract procurement waivers. To do so would dispel the doubt that officers or companies were influenced by personal gain.
Here are 3 examples of waivers all used by Andy Jarrett (pictured) for the Princes Parade Project.
The Shepway Vox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime