29 March 2006 | Anusha Bradley
Bradford Metropolitan District Council has been censured by the Audit Commission for the way it went about procuring a £1.2 billion contract to manage council property.
The procurement process for a facilities management provider was halted last June following an anonymous tip-off to the public spending watchdog.
Ivan McConnell, district auditor, has this month published a critical report based on an eight-month investigation. He cites the "inability of council officers to employ effective procedures" to manage the project. This is despite the council having procurement and project management guidelines in place.
Examples highlighted in the report include officers changing bid scores without proper explanation and one senior officer chairing both the technical and financial bid evaluation meetings. McConnell said this put the officer in a "position of potentially significant influence".
McConnell concludes that Bradford failed to document the process properly, there was no dedicated project management team and staff were "stretched beyond their capacity".
In addition, financial advisers called in to assist with the project were "badly commissioned" and the costs were above the European Union threshold, which means the authority should have advertised the tender. McConnell said the authority may have broken its own procurement rules and EU procurement legislation. However, in the absence of a proper process and documentation "no clear conclusion can be drawn on this matter" he said.
A council spokesman told supplymanagement.com the authority has accepted the findings, adding that the procurement service was staffed by professionally qualified purchasers.