KCC Commercial Services company start £2.2 billion of contracts before they were awarded

Kent County Council Commercial Services Group is a company you’ve probably never heard of. It is one of the largest, local authority owned, trading organisations of its kind in the UK. However it has let nearly £2.2bn pounds worth of contracts before they were awarded, according to publicly available data.

This is same KCC wholly owned company which suffered a ransomware attack in April 2020, which we wrote about in May 2020 and followed up with a second article in June 2020

The company began over 90 years ago as the supplies division of Kent County Council, it has grown organically to become one of the leading suppliers of products and services to the education and public sector, serving over 15,000 customers in 85+ countries.

According to the data published by this KCC company on the Kent Business Portal, £2,173,650,000 worth of contracts started before they were awarded.

The data downloaded on Friday 28 April, showed there were 48 contracts on the KCC Commercial Services Contract Register. Of these 48 contracts, 14 began before they were awarded; which is equal to 29.16% of all the contracts. 

The estimated value of all 48 contracts is £13,082,197,250, (£13bn). The value of all contracts which started before they were awarded is £2,173,650,000, which is 16.62% of the overall estimated value of all contracts.

The worst case was allowing a contract to start 2 years and six months before it was awarded. Another was started a year prior to it being awarded, and another 9 months before it was awarded. This is just three out of 14 contracts, started before they were awarded.

The largest contract was for £750m, which started 153 days before it was awarded. The second largest contract was for £500m; which started 121 days before it was awarded. And the third largest contract started before it was awarded had a value of £400m. 

And if that wasn’t enough, KCC fail to publish its purchase order data. It’s been a requirement for them to publish this data set since 31/10/2014.  The requirement to publish this data is set out at Paragraph 32 of the Transparency Code 2015; which states:

Local authorities must also publish details of any contract, commissioned activity, purchase order, framework agreement and any other legally enforceable agreement with a value that exceeds £5,000.
So this means nearly nine years worth of data is missing from KCC website.
KCCs constitution at page 169, links to the The Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency issued in 2011. This has been superseded by the Transparency Code 2015; which is mandatory. So KCCs constitution is behind the times and needs a thorough overhaul regarding its Transparency requirements. 
Let’s hope KCC put a stop to their commercial company starting contracts before they are awarded, and get the Purchase Order issue resolved sooner rather than later.
Finally, what is rather odd about all this is, Cllrs who sit on the Audit & Governance Committee, Council Officers, employees of Commercial Services, the external auditor (Grant Thornton), and KCCs internal auditors have all missed this publicly available evidence.  Lets hope they can tidy this mess up, as the public pound needs to be looked after much more carefully, than it is at present by KCCs Commercial Services Group. 
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful
About shepwayvox (1820 Articles)
Our sole motive is to inform the residents of Shepway - and beyond -as to that which is done in their name. email: shepwayvox@riseup.net

4 Comments on KCC Commercial Services company start £2.2 billion of contracts before they were awarded

  1. Can someone please answer these two questions.

    1. Who says you can start a Contract before it’s been awarded?

    2. How do the company involved in the contract know they are going to be paid ?

  2. I know nothing of the details but it is perfectly normal practice to issue a letter of intent which is, in effect, a contract to start a part of the works before the details are all agreed.

    • shepwayvox // April 29, 2023 at 09:35 // Reply

      A letter of intent is NOT always a contract, that’s because the drafting or responding will make it clear it is not a contract. Also an LOI is, but not exclusively used in construction. None of the contracts here were construction contracts.

  3. Kent management, particularly Shepway, over the past few months, have apparently appeared not dissimilar to the plots in ‘Rise of the Foot Soldier’ movies.

    Simply put, financial product and lower profile: easily substituted.

    Many changes will be seen over the next five years.

    With the advent of GPT4, replacement of Executive would appear a welcome, efficient, cheaper option, as the tool of local government, if supported with dedicated staff professionals; many such people quietly exist.

    Certainly, the contractual deficiencies witnessed to date would not occur, nor would personal empire building ambitions. Finances could be operated without questionable activities while the public enjoy, at last, reduced council taxes.

    Furthermore, GPT4 may viably be initiated to track earlier deficiencies and out sources, hence, those who might have acted beyond their powers, or perhaps, previously laid a complex procedural path, particularly pertaining to contract agreements, could become readily disclosed.
    If such actions have occurred, adverse complexities would not be an obstacle, an algorithm could identify sources promptly.

    Colourful, imaginative?

    The scenario depicted above is already being applied in business, finance and military applications globally, as standard procedure, use by government sources already generating prompt results.

    The public want and need local government they can trust, which is not necessarily in all of those who stand as the only options currently to be voted for.

    Certainly, the behaviours we have all witnessed offer a very credible reason to believe there have been actions marking a pathway to the necessary extinction of certain management and executive positions.

    We wish you well in the coming election: make a difference!

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