To consider the attached report.
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The Committee received a report in relation to compliance with the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules (CPR) and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The report covered the period from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020.
The Council, as a public body, had to comply with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 when undertaking procurement exercises and awarding contracts. The Regulations placed a great deal of restrictions on how the Council was permitted to run procurement exercises and in some cases the Council could be sued by bidders for not following the Regulations.
Members were informed that it was the relevant service area/ directorate that was responsible for undertaking procurement exercises and the management of contracts, not the procurement team. The procurement team developed the corporate policy, supported high risk/value procurement exercises and provided training on procurement & contract management.
The report detailed information on the Council’s CPR’s relating to contracts, waivers and breaches including that all purchases over £25K were subject to competition. There were requirements on the number of written quotes required and in some instances a full tender process or compliant Framework Agreement would have to be followed if the contract cost was more than the relevant procurement threshold. Where possible, local suppliers were given an opportunity to bid.
CPR Rule 6.18 allowed a Waiver to the requirement for competition and allowed a contract to be placed by direct negotiation with one or more suppliers however, a waiver could not be granted if over the relevant procurement thresholds. The threshold amounts were explained in the report.
If a direct award was made that was above this threshold (if a legal alternative such as a Framework was not used) a breach had occurred, and officers were obliged to report this to the S151 Officer and Monitoring Officer (statutory officers). In some instances, there might be legal permitted changes within the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
It was explained that Service areas could complete waiver forms to waive internal rules, but not Procurement Law. Service areas had to demonstrate why a waiver was needed and must include why this was best value. The Procurement team carried out commercial assessments on all waivers using a risk-based approach. Legal and financial input was requested when appropriate. Information was provided on the sign off process for waivers and the main factors considered in the risk-base approach.
Waiver Summary for Quarters 1 and 2 – FY 2020-2021
A summary of activity for the period was as follows:-
· 30 Waivers had been completed, total value approved had been £8,165,786.
· the highest value Waiver had been for £3,644,487. This related to a social care contract for Integrated Community equipment. Legal had advised that although this was in excess of the thresholds set out by CPRs this contract fell under Regulation 72 of PCR 2015 and therefore extension was permissible. Regulation 72 provided a number of permitted modification of contracts for certain reasons. In this instance, the impact due to COVID19.
· the lowest value Waiver had been for £31,450.
There had been one breach reported to the Statutory Officers in the period since the last report. A full report on the breach was included in a confidential appendix to the agenda.
The Committee was also provided with information on the requirements for the publication of contract opportunities and award notices on the Government’s Contract Finder website.
The Council had been investigated by the Procurement Review Service in June 2020, following an allegation from a company that the Council had not complied with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 when awarding a contract to a supplier. The Procurement Review Service had investigated and found that the Council had acted within the Regulations and had considered best value. The complaint had not been upheld.
One of the newest issues of bringing together 5 Councils was for the procurement and contract management culture of relevant services areas/directorates. In order to develop a new positive culture and ensure a high level of assurance the Procurement team was providing training on several areas relating to procurement and contract management.
In response to a question, Members were informed that waivers were signed off by the relevant Cabinet Member and information was then reported periodically to the Audit and Governance Committee.
That the information on waivers and breaches of the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules for quarters 1 and 2 of 2020-21, together with the work of the Strategic Procurement team, be noted.