Conservative contract mismanagement risks taxpayers cash
Auditors have warned that Wiltshire Council's Contracts department is making a number of "high risk" mistakes. A string of missed clauses and "non-compliance with contract regulations" could expose the Council to "significant corporate risk".
Mark Packard, Finance Spokesperson for the Lib Dems, said "This Audit report reveals an unfortunate culture of not dotting the i's and crossing the t's in the Council's Contracts Administration.
"That might be forgivable elsewhere, but when dealing with high value contracts, there's no room for error. We're challenging the Conservative Administration at the Council to take these breaches more seriously, and really get control over this crucial area of the Council.
"The report indicates that changes may have been made to contracts without consulting the legal team. This could leave the Council exposed to all sorts of legal proceedings, and must change now."
The Audit Committee papers for 14th December are available at https://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=155&MId=6485&Ver=4 with the relevant section beginning on page 46.
The report identifies 4 High Risk Issues:
There is a risk of non compliance with contract regulations. The majority of contracts and framework arrangements tested were not on the Legal database.
Contracts Officers are not using the Wiltshire Council Contracts Template where applicable. There is a risk that particular clauses may have been omitted and may have a detrimental effect should there be failings by the provider or the Council.
Agreements may have been negotiated for high value contracts without Legal input. This is a significant corporate risk because there is no appropriate check that the contracts being entered into are legally compliant. It also creates the risk that should a dispute arise over these contracts Legal would not be in a good position to give quick responses or solutions. This could delay proceedings and may have other Legal implications.
There is a risk that variations are implemented without notifying Legal Services. There are also issues around the registration with variations on the Legal database. The lack of registration on the Legal database may lead to insufficient evidence that Legal have been involved. As there is no appropriate guidance in the contract regulations changes are being made to contracts both in terms of value, amendment of clauses including service specifications without consulting Legal Services.