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Tim Williams

MoD civil servants plead guilty in CCTV contract corruption case

CCTV cameras

An investigation into the corruption of civil servants has concluded at  Belfast Crown Court after all four defendants admitted their involvement. The case centred around payments to show favour for the tendering and continuation of CCTV CamerasCCTV contracts in Northern Ireland.

Their guilty pleas mark the conclusion of a joint investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and the Ministry of Defence Police, into bribery allegations, which began in 2002.

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Inappropriate use of Negotiated and Competitive Dialogue Procedures

Some public authorities use the negotiated or competitive dialogue procedures for awarding contracts, when in fact the regulations are actually quite strict on which procedure they should choose and authorities should be using the Open or Restricted procedure in most circumstances.

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Procurement Fraud in English Councils

Cover of audit commission report

The Audit Commission has today published the results of its annual survey of fraud against English councils and related bodies (Protecting the Public Purse 2011). The 2010/11 report shows that:Front cover of Audit Commission Report

  • fraud directed against public sector organisations costs taxpayers £21.2 billion/year
  • fraud against councils costs more than £2 billion/year
  • councils detected more than £185 million worth of fraud (<10% of the total), involving 121,000 cases
  • the total value detected increased by 37 per cent compared against 2009/10, with the number of cases detected also rising

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New research: UK deficit can be slashed without cuts to public services

A third of the UK’s structural deficit (£38bn) could be eliminated by reforming how the public sector buys its goods and

Henley Business School

Henley Business School

services, according to a major new report by Henley Business School at the University of Reading and specialist consulting group Future Purchasing. A complimentary copy of the report is downloadable from www.deficit-reduction.com. Continue reading “New research: UK deficit can be slashed without cuts to public services”

Corruption claims against Edinburgh City Council

BBC Scotland is broadcasting a documentary tonight (20th September) titled ‘Scotland’s Property Scandal’  on BBC1 Scotland (Sky Channel 971) after the news at 22:35. It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer for those of you who don’t have access to BBC Scotland.

The programme investigates the evidence of possible fraud, wrong-doing and incompetence in the Property Conservation Department at Edinburgh City Council. This department is responsible for overseeing the statutory notice system, that seems unique to Edinburgh, where private buildings with multiple owners (e.g. tenements or blocks of flats), can be issued with a notice by the Council stating that the building is going to be repaired and that the cost will be passed to the owners. These repairs are commonly to roofs, or external masonry not only to make sure that they are wind and water tight, but to make sure that there is no danger to passing pedestrians from falling slates or blocks of stone.

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Is scrapping PQQ’s really a good idea?

The Cabinet Office under Francis Maude, has announced that it intends to eliminate PQQs (Pre-Qualification Questionnaires) for all central government procurements under £100,000.

While I hate filling these things in and find that they are frequently lazily or incompetently written and just as often poorly evaluated, they do fulfil a useful purpose. That is, they avoid the need for suppliers who stand little chance of winning the contract, to complete the full tender document, as well as the need for the buyer to evaluate the full tender from a multitude of suppliers.

I fear that the main result from scrapping the PQQ is that we (the suppliers) end up having to spend many days or weeks completing a full tender, instead of a day or so completing a PQQ, which will then be even more incompetently evaluated by the buyer, as they have a much greater volume to assess.

Surely what is required is a reform of the PQQ process and training to ensure that procurement staff understand what they are doing, rather than engaging in a box ticking exercise? We seem to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Cabinet Office consultation on public contracts

Cabinet Office sign

In December 2010 the Cabinet Office invited feedback on the effectiveness of the public procurement rules. The purpose of that exercise was to inform the UK’s involvement in the ongoing review of the rules by the European Commission.

The Commission’s review is still underway, and it has now released a formal public consultation paper to which the Cabinet Office is preparing a UK response. Since the Commission’s recent consultation paper is substantially more detailed than the information previously provided by the Cabinet Office, they have extended the deadline for comments until 25th February.

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Supreme Court overturns procurement case

Supreme Court logo

The Supreme Court yesterday (9th February 2011) delivered a landmark judgement in the first procurement case to reach the court, overturning previous decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Supreme Court logo

The economic downturn and the massive cuts in funding for local authorities which are now beginning to flow through will increasingly require councils to look for new and innovative ways to deliver services. In February 2007, the London Borough of Brent invited tenders in accordance with the Public Contracts Regulations 2006, (the Procurement Regulations), for the provision of insurance. The company Risk Management Partners (RMP) submitted a tender, but was informed on 7 March 2007 that Brent had decided to award the contract to London Authorities Mutual Limited (LAML) which had not taken part in the competition. LAML was formed by a group of local authorities to provide insurance to the member authorities. Brent became a member of, and helped to fund, LAML, a guaranteed indemnity mutual insurance company. There was an expected saving of 15 to 20 per cent in comparison with external insurance.

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Modernisation of the European Public Procurement Market

European map with EU stars

Public procurement accounts for roughly 17% of the European Union’s GDP. In times of tight budgets and economic difficulties in many Member States, public procurement policy must ensure the most efficient use of public funds, with a view to supporting growth and job creation. This would require flexible and user-friendly tools that make transparentEuropean map with EU stars and competitive contract awards as easy as possible for European public authorities and their suppliers. With these objectives in mind, the European Commission has  launched a consultation which will focus on the modernisation of the rules, tools and methods for public procurement. The deadline for responses to the Green Paper is 18 April 2011.

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Getting feedback at the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) stage

Chart illustrating proportion of open, restricted, competitive dialogue and negotiated tendering procedures used in the UK and Europe

One of the most frequent questions we are asked at Tenders Direct is ‘Am I entitled to feedback if I get knocked out at the PQQ stage?‘ This is a very important question as pre-qualification is used much more often in the UK than in the rest of Europe. The chart below shows the relative proportion that each of the four main tender procedures (Open, Restricted, Competitive Dialogue or Negotiated) was used in the UK and in Europe.

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