Police forensics procurement 'rushed through'

5 August 2011

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5 August 2011 | Angeline Albert

The rush to find new police forensic services’ suppliers means the “usual due diligence” process could not be followed, the chief executive of the Hertfordshire Police Authority (HPA) has said.

Andrew White criticised the government’s decision to shutdown Forensic Science Services (FSS) saying it has triggered a hurry to sign contracts with new vendors. FSS, which is currently the leading provider for all 43 police forces in England and Wales, will stop accepting new business in October and close in March.

HPA signed agreements worth £1 million with seven suppliers last month. They will deliver forensic work to 10 police forces in Hertfordshire from October. White is confident the chosen suppliers will provide quality services and offer value for money thanks to due diligence work undertaken in the last few weeks but criticised the deadlines that police have had to work to. He told SM today: “Procurement regulations were followed but before contracts were signed I would have liked to have been assured we were getting good value for money at key times during the process.”

In his report to the HPA committee last month, he said: “In normal circumstances, the chief executive would have delayed the signing until further assurances regarding cost, quality and resilience had been obtained, but given the clear statement that if we did not have contracts in place by the middle of July we would not have forensic provision in October, this was not considered an option.”     

Since the closure announcement, the Association of Chief Police Officers, NationalPolicing Improvement Agency and Home Office have been working to set up alternative provision. In the South West, a private buyer is being sought to cover a portion of the old FSS; in the north east a consortium of forces is looking to take over some of FSS services; while a competitive tendering process has been developed for forces in the east of England, Hampshire, Kent and the City of London.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “All police forces had the option to continue as customers of the FSS until a buyer is found or to procure new contracts. Hertfordshire Police made clear its decision was to seek new arrangements and we are working with them and several other forces to take this forward.”

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