Monday, August 13, 2012

Lessons must be learned over council’s £850k+ spend

As reported in today's Courier, I have criticised the proposed £859 136 expenditure on refurbishing Dudhope Castle for use by City Council staff and said that the City Council has to learn lessons from what is a bad example of the council failing to openly tender for the work to get best value for the council tax payer and also failing to ensure proper decision-making by rushing the spending through at the last minute through a small recess sub-committee.

Following my raising concerns about the way this large expenditure was rushed through the Recess Sub-Committee of the council at the end of last month, I have been in discussion and correspondence with senior officers of Dundee City Council about the way this refurbishment contract has been handled.

Now being aware of the whole background, I have to say I am very unhappy indeed at the failure of council to undertake a competitive tender of the work and simply hand it to the council’s own Environment Department.     The council simply cannot show it got best value for a contract if it fails to go out to open tender in the marketplace.

The excuse given for failing to seek competitive quotes – that the decision was urgent – stands up to no scrutiny whatsoever.   The previous occupants of the property – Abertay University – gave notice to quit back in May 2011 and the council has had all that time to move the tendering process forward.

I am not criticising the decision to move staff out of their present inadequate accommodation.   I think everyone accepts that relocation of staff from their outdated accommodation at, for example,  St Columba’s and Balmerino Road, makes sense.

However, but there has been no proper scrutiny of this large tender – the best part of £1m - and the failure to seek competitive quotes is extremely unfortunate to say the least.

The City Council must urgently review its processes when it comes to tendering for goods and services.   I have already recently met with the Chief Executive about the need to ensure that local businesses get a fair share of the council’s tendered work.   In addition, the council must urgently review the amount of work that does not go to competitive tender.   The City Council has a duty to ensure best value for its tax payers at all times.