Before we move forward we must go back almost a year.
9.2(c) Check that the contract if over £5,000 is recorded on the Council’s contract register.
9.6 The primary findings giving rise to the Limited Assurance opinion in this area are as follows:
CSO 5.4(f) – For a sample of 15 suppliers with expenditure in excess of £5,000. 9 (60%) were found to have been listed on the Contracts Register.
The Council’s Contract Management – Controls & Governance received a limited assurance from the internal auditor due to them failing to comply with their own Contract Standing Orders (CSO) – see 2.3 below
Put simply a limited assurance identifies – Significant gaps, weaknesses or non-compliance. Improvement is required to the system of governance, risk management and control to effectively manage risks to the achievement of objectives in the area audited.
Fast forward almost one year and we have taken the time to look at the Contract register once again. What we have found is a continuing failure to follow the process and procedures (listen to 6m to 6m: 15s) of the Council’s contract standing orders and the Transparency Code 2015.
Between April 2023 and Oct 2023, we looked at the Council contracts register and compared it with its payment to suppliers data. Without any deep dive whatsoever, we found nine companies who did not have a contract, according to the Council’s contract register, yet had been paid in excess of £730,000 pounds. Of course this should not be able to happen after all the Training officers have received. But despite the training it’s clear from the evidence it is still happening and nothing is being done to correct the issue.
The nine contracts which we discovered missing; without a deep dive, are as follows:
AW Construction Services Ltd
According to the Council’s payment to suppliers data, AW Construction have received £241,466 without a contract.
Bell Agriculture Ltd
According to the Council contract register only one contract has been issued to Bell. That was for the repair of a John Deere Tractor
Yet the Council’s payment data makes it clear in May 2023 Bell had been paid £119,306, for only one contract worth £13,000.
According to the Council’s payment to suppliers data, Mastenbroek Ltd have received £93,269 without a contract.
So three companies who according to the Council’s contract register do not have contracts with Folkestone & Hythe District Council have received £454,041. That is clearly not following the process and procedures of the Council’s contract standing orders.
We can obviously go and name other companies, who according to the Council contract register, have no contract, yet have been paid considerable sums.
Focus 4 U Ltd – £55,145 (Sept & Oct 2023)
Local Partnerships LLP – £35,371 (Sept 2023)
DayTrad Ltd – £48,657 (Apr – Oct 2023)
Stretton & Lang Builder Ltd £49,114 (May – Sept 2023)
Pentest People Ltd – £12,240 (Oct 2023)
PA Group UK Ltd – £75,868 (Apr – Sept 2023)
So nine contracts, which are not on the contract register as they must be. Nine contracts and Folkestone & Hythe District Council have paid these companies £730,436.
We were told by the Chief Executive, Dr Susan Priest, back in Dec 2022, and the Council legal officer, who is the Monitoring Officer, Amandeep Khroud, and the then s151 Officer Charlotte Spendley, the issues raised herein, would stop, desist, not happen again. But despite these assurances, the evidence is unequivocal, it continues to happen, and nobody, but nobody is doing anything about it, which is rather concerning indeed.
The Shepway Vox Team
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