Are Procurement Standards Slipping or Are the Powers That be getting Stricter?

I feel that every tweet, RSS and blog is talking about another authority getting pulled up and challenged on one of their “sweep-it-under-the-rug” tenders.

The European Commission has requested Greece to ensure full compliance with EU rules on public procurement – the purchase of goods and services by public authorities – as regards school bus services and the supply of underground electricity cables…..….The first case concerns the award of several school bus contracts by means of a negotiated procedure without the prior publication of a contract notice. Such a procedure is allowed only in exceptional circumstances, and in this case no justification was found. The second case concerns a contract for underground electricity cables that was awarded in breach of the open tendering procedure.

EUROPA – Press Releases – Public procurement: Commission requests Greece to ensure fair access to public contracts for supply of school bus services and electricity cables –

The school bus contracts were not meager low value tenders; we are talking €2 million to €5 million contracts over a three year period. Never was there a contract published and there was certainly no transparency.  The contract was a negotiated procedure, and the authority has failed to prove the exceptional circumstances needed for a negotiated procedure.  The underground cables were quite the sneaky deal as well, the authority values the contract at €55 million and would award the contract to the lowest bidder; simple. The deadline date came, the bids were sealed…so they thought. One rogue bidder underbid his own bid by €2 million! And we all know how this story ends; the rogue bidder wins the contract for unground cables in Greece. Very naughty indeed.

Next up on the butcher’s block;

Investigations into buying practices at two of Northern Ireland’s education authorities have found procurement failures linked to school contracts.     The findings have prompted Northern Ireland’s education-minister Caitríona Ruane to announce investigations into procurement at the Belfast Education and Library Board, the Western Education and Library Board and the Southern Education and Library Board.

NI procurement failures prompt further reviews | Official CIPS Magazine – Supply Management

This investigation in Northern Ireland didn’t evolve into a major case but the above mentioned authorities did get a slap on the wrist for their weak buying strategies and governance.

Our own blogger Tim Williams has done a few stories on wrist slapping and court cases in the last while For further reading see links below.

Supreme Court overturns procurement case

European Commission investigates Glasgow Housing Association’s failure to openly tender

UK Construction firms fined £129.5 million for illegal anti-competitive bid-rigging activities

It is nice to see public money being looked after for once. However, I am just not sure if it is because The European Commission are taking down the bad guys or if suppliers are fighting back “The Man”. As a supplier you can challenge any contract you feel was unfairly awarded, just by making a formal complaint you can put a hiatus on the contract award. This is sometimes enough to stop the authority in their tracks and reconsider. Have any of our readers ever pulled an authority up on an unfair contract? Let us hear about it!

3 thoughts on “A Slap on The Wrist for Authorities

  1. Rizz Patel says:

    we have taken a local authority to court, see letting international vs london borough of newham. these cases can be very difficult to prove, and there needs to be a legal advantage in the case, if the procurement process is flawed then you may have a chance of putting up a fight, one thing that these challenges do is slow down all the processes for the procuring organisation. there seems to be a challenge for the local authority in our case which i feel is unfair, if they wanted to resolve the case outside of court then the other bidders will also have a challenge. It is difficult for all involved. I feel something needs to change, im not sure how

    Rizz Patel

    1. Hailey Thomson says:

      Thanks for sharing Rizz, it must be frustrating and tiring going through such a lengthy appeal. But a huge, huge Thank You goes out from all the other suppliers, it is companies like yours that paves the way for others. The major “something” that needs to change is transparency, the word bounces around the public sector like a ping pong ball, but it must be taken seriously!

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