Friday, 17 September 2010

Tinworth News Pt 94 etc

The Post has written about the Call-in Sub-committee examining the decision to examine the decision to hand more cash to Harold Tinworth.

There's not a lot new in there. The unsurprising conclusion of the committee was that everything was done by the book which, from a purely procedural point of view is true. The committee did make recommendations to improve the process to be followed but time will tell as to whether anything changes. My guess is no because the changes that have been suggested, which are to have a panel of approved consultants to choose from and to ensure at least three bids are to be received, as opposed to simply invited, would simply make the procurement procedure for small contracts of <£50k the same as that for contracts >£50k. I suspect that such a move will eventually be abandoned for being too 'bureaucratic'.

According to the call-in request one of the aspects to be examined was the reason for picking Tinworth over the other bidder. Now on the surface the reasons were obvious, the bid from Tribal was nearly twice the cost and had little information about what they would do.

And yet, there is more than a little circumstantial evidence for there being a stitch up -

1) Tinworth had already been doing the work since 2006, it was probably inconvenient to be told by the District Auditor that this cosy arrangement had to be placed on a formal footing,

2) Other, larger sections of the so-called 'Leading Nottingham Transformation Programme' were put out to open tender and received a lot of interest (see p4 here). Why was the bit for working with the executive hived off separately and only three bids invited, when if it had been included with the section aimed at senior managers it would have been seen by the 189 companies that bid for that contract. They didn't need to insist that all bidders bid for both parts but a wider circulation would have attracted more interest and been more transparent.

3) The choice of the alternative bidders, Tribal Group (who have, at least in the past, done recruitment work for NCC) and Solace Enterprises (who, coincidentally, both JoCo and Harold Tinworth have worked for in the past, in fact it appears that it was Solace who were the initial intermediaries for Tinworth working at NCC) leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. It does seem odd that a company of Tribal's size would put in such a spectacularly inferior bid and that Solace Enterprises, a subsidiary of the Society for Local Authority Chief Executives, would not have the skills to fulfill the contract as was claimed.

It's not difficult to see a route by which it could have been ensured that Tinworth would be the successful bidder. Bearing in mind that does look a bit conspiracy theory it's fair to ask why anyone would want to do that and my answer would be to refer you back to 1) above. Yet none of the opposition councillors asked anything about this part of the story at the meeting I attended, in fact Lib Dem Gary Long said he didn't know anything about the District Auditor's investigation when I asked him. There's no mention of it in the Post article so I can only assume it didn't come up when the meeting was reconvened next day.

As I said in my previous post, without the back-story there would be nothing remarkable about Tinworth getting the contract. So I'm suspicious as to why the District Auditor's role seemed to be kept out of the discussion and I can't help feeling that opposition councillors could have asked more difficult questions.

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