13 November 2008 | Paul Snell
The Treasury must remind government departments of the importance of propriety in procurement, according to a group of MPs.
It follows revelations in a report by the Public Accounts Committee that a lack of basic finance, procurement and HR policies allowed a senior staff member in the HM Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office to award nearly £98,000 of consultancy contracts to his wife.
David Partridge, formerly chief operating officer, recommended his wife to develop HR policies in the department in September 2005. The Prosecutions Office's director, David Green, approved the appointment because of the short length of her six-month contract, proven track record, and ability to start straight away - although he later conceded he should have taken external advice.
Originally employed as a sole trader, his wife later formed a limited company, with Partridge taking a retrospective role as company secretary - which he did not declare to director of the Prosecutions Office. He was later sacked for gross misconduct.
The department was satisfied that the work she carried out was value for money.
An independent disciplinary review found Partridge had acted "without due regard to propriety and the proper conduct of official business, but there was no suggestion of dishonesty."
At the time the department had a procurement policy, but this did not have enough detail on how to apply it in specific circumstances. The department issued a new purchasing policy in April 2007.
The review was also critical of the office's reliance on a few key suppliers providing legal advice, which could create "excessive dependency and the perception of a cosy relationship".