Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Matt Hancock - acted unlawfully over contract transparency

 Second good article from Supply Management.

This time it is about the controversy over the failure of Matt Hancock (Health Secretary) to publish contract award notices within 30 days of award.

A few points about this.

Firstly, publishing late is not evidence of corruption, collusion, or "money for mates" as was suggested by some commentators.

Secondly, publishing late does raise eyebrows because if you were indulging in unethical/illegal behaviours in awarding contracts you would probably try to hide it (e.g. by publishing award notices either very late or not at all).  This is not saying there is no smoke without fire, but you can understand why people do say it.  This is why transparency has to be at the heart of public sector procurement - only if we can see what is going on can we be reassured that our taxpayer's money is being spent in the best way.  Late publishing of award notices may seem a minor issue, but it undermines public trust in government procurement.

Thirdly, there is no good reason for the late publication.  It is a relatively minor effort and should be undertaken as a matter of routine.  It is unconnected to the reasons why we may have gone for direct awards of contracts during the Covid-19 crisis (which may or may not be justified - it is a separate issue).  Personally, I suspect the hand of a well known provocateur at the heart of government who celebrated cocking a snook at the rule of law, standards and processes.  Thankfully he has gone (you know who I mean).

Finally, what is clearly wrong is that Matt Hancock authorised the use of government funds to fight a legal case it clearly had no chance of winning, and in which the government was unquestionably in the wrong.  This is an abuse of the legal system, and a waste of taxpayer's money.  The government's own legal team must have told the minister he had no chance of winning.  Instead Mr. Hancock decided to waste time and money during a health crisis.  

Whether the government was prudent or unwise in not having competitive tendering for PPE is something quite separate, and should be studied by an independent review.  It genuinely could be either case.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Procurement failure - Oxford

 Some good stuff in Supply Management.  

First, Oxford County Council reaching a settlement for £1.6m with a contractor.  The article is here.

A couple of points here, which I commonly raise with delegates.

Firstly, the cost to the council is significant and would pay the salaries of approximately 30 procurement staff.  Investing in high quality procurement staff can pay for itself - the problem is it pays for itself in cost avoidance, which is difficult to estimate.

Secondly, the council's legal team estimated chances of losing at 75% to 85%.  This may seem odd to people not used to legal cases, but the odds of winning or losing are rarely 100%.  You are never quite sure what the court will find.  (though see tomorrow's blog)  So a lot of decisions are made on a commercial basis rather than a legal basis - "we think we are right but the odds are not good so it is better to settle".

Another good article tomorrow.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

IChemE - What Engineers Need to Know about Contracts - 3/4 March 2021

 The first 2021 running of What Engineers Need to know about Contracts is next week, and we still have spaces (the joy of running courses on line!).

Let's hope that we might even be able to have the second event as a face to face one!

Dates are 3/4 March 2021 (online - 2x 1/2 days)

and 9/10 August 2021 - which might (just might)  be face to face in Rugby.  But don't hold your breath.

Full details are here.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Transparency in public procurement

 As has been recently covered in the press, the government broke the law by not reporting details of its contracts for PPE in a timely manner.

A good analysis of the importance of this has been written by David Allen Green here.

All I will add is that the concept of transparency is really at the heart of public accountability, and is not merely some bureaucratic nicety as the government appears to have argued.  Hopefully, this was a hangover from the political adviser who seemed to take a perverse pleasure in demonstrating that the law, standards and social norms did not apply to him. (You know who I mean)  The effort and money spent in defending a case where the government was clearly and admittedly in the wrong, is not encouraging.

In a time of crisis it is important that the government and public sector keep the trust of the population.  Probably even more than in normal times.  I hope that is understood by the government.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Find a Tender Service (UK public sector tenders)

 The new Find a Tender Service is up and online - you can find it here.  This replaces the OJEU website for tenders with a value above the relevant threshold, i.e. the larger public sector tenders.  Note that any tender process that started on OJEU will be completed on OJEU and follow EU procurement rules.  Just a reminder - the threshold values themselves have not changed this year - the current levels apply for 2020/1.

They appear to be calling it FTS, not FATS (as I rather hoped).  It is not the easiest thing to find, but hopefully will be further up the listings on Google when it is bedded in a bit.

I have registered, and the process is fairly painless (not completely), and it IS linked to Contract Finder  - which makes a lot of sense but was not guaranteed.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

2021 and all that

 Merry Christmas and let's hope for a much better new year.

Roll on 2021.

See you on the other side.

Friday, 18 December 2020

2021 IChemE What Engineers Need to Know about Contracts

 This course seems to be increasingly popular, and we have 2 dates in the diary already for 2021.  More may be added if there is enough demand (and possibly some other courses that I shall present).

Dates are 3/4 March 2021 (online - 2x 1/2 days)

and 9/10 August 2021 - which might (just might) even be face to face in Rugby.  But don't hold your breath.

Full details are here.

Merry Christmas folks.