05 February 2009 | Paul Snell
The procurement process to find a supplier for a new ticketing system for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was "fundamentally flawed", according to an investigation.
Many visitors to the festival last summer were unable to buy tickets after the system bought by organisers the Festival Fringe Society failed, causing the festival to suffer a financial loss.
Although the society did follow a procurement process to find a new supplier, the final decision over which one to select was not based on the detailed assessment of vendors that had been carried out. Instead a subjective choice was made primarily dependent on which supplier could provide a bespoke system for the festival.
The independent report into the chaos, conducted by accountancy firm Scott-Moncrieff, recognised the procurement process had followed "best practice", but the implementation of this was flawed.
In addition, although a consultant had been brought in as a project manager to assist with procurement, the role was marginalised, with the responsibilities usurped by internal management and staff. A group to oversee the implementation of the system was also never formed, and it was left to the supplier to manage the project.
The society selected Pivotal as its preferred supplier, despite the vendor never having developed a ticketing system before, and was rated to have a "high risk of business failure" by risk analysts Dun & Bradstreet. Pivotal's system did go live on 9 June, but immediately failed.
The Scott-Moncrieff report recommended all future purchasing processes should be formalised and a full report, containing recommendations and evidence, should be published after a decision is taken.
A spokesman for the society said: "Many of the recommendations mirror changes that are already well under way for this year's festival. These steps are part of a radical process of change in the Fringe - specifically in relation to the staffing structure, the business model and the negotiation of a new box office system. The board has recognised the box office difficulties of the past year and learnt from the experience."