25 September 2009 | Allie Anderson
An investigation into the handling of a waste collection contract at Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire has identified "areas of serious concern" in its procurement processes.
The report, published this week, found several "potential breaches" of EU procurement rules, including failure to consider various procurement methods, such as engagement in competitive dialogue or negotiations.
It also highlighted a lack of transparency in the council's requirements, and found that two bids were allowed from winning supplier Sita UK, instead of one.
The authority commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct the investigation in February after council members raised concerns about how the contract, which went to tender in June 2007, was awarded.
In particular, members questioned whether the council had done enough to ensure a voluntary sector organisation it had chosen as its preferred local social enterprise was involved in providing waste management and recycling services. The authority recommended in its tender that the successful supplier collaborate with a social enterprise on the contract. Winning bidder Sita UK started work on the deal in August 2008, but failed to strike a partnership with the chosen social enterprise Kerbside.
Owen Williams, chief executive of Calderdale Council, said: "The report highlights a number of unacceptable issues relating to the procurement process and the judgement and decision-making of a small number of council staff.
"As a result it will be necessary to consider whether there are any disciplinary issues arising from this. After considering the report, I also have significant concerns about [external] advice received by the council during 2007 and the input of specialist officers, some of whom are no longer working with us."
The final cost of the investigation is likely to be more than the £30,000 originally allocated, he added.