Extra scrutiny plea fails to find favour

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The strategy Falkirk Council follows to procure contracts for work and services needs further scrutiny.

That’s according to the local SNP Group, which called for the process to go before the council’s scrutiny panel to provide further transparency over how contracts are awarded.

At a meeting of Falkirk Council’s executive committee recently, members voted to approve the procurement strategy for 2017 to 2020 despite the SNP’s calls for further checks.

According to the report, the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 requires all contracting authorities with an annual procurement spend above £5 million to produce an organisational procurement strategy.

Falkirk’s new strategy aims to secure best value through professional, planned and sustainable procurement, which best meets the needs of communities.

However, SNP Councillor David Alexander gave examples of the council’s procurement process not offering best value, including a head teacher purchasing furniture for £80 when the council had earmarked goods costing £600 and another occasion when a resident was quoted a price of £2500 to remove a wasp’s nest, but a little local knowledge led to the job being carried out for just £40 in the end.

He said: “Our procurement team are one of the best, but, as Andy Murray will tell you, it’s all about continuous improvement and that comes through governance.”

Councillor Tom Coleman said: “This is a hoop that we have to jump through.

“No one in here wants to get involved in the procurement process that would be the wrong thing to do, but the idea that this comes once a year to committee is not exactly a model of governance when it comes to monitoring the strategy.

“I want to see if we can be the best we can be and it’s necessary to look at the governance of this process.

“We need to send it to the scrutiny committee so we can fine tune things and have a process that is slightly more transparent.”

Councillor Craig Martin, council leader, said: “We are one of the better performing councils in terms of procurement – our procurement team is not the biggest but it is one of the hardest working.

“There are continual reports presented to the executive and we get procurement reports several times a year. I’m not sure giving it to a scrutiny panel will make a big difference.”

Councillor Gerry Goldie said: “There is not any concern about this whatsoever so I wouldn’t support this going to scrutiny.

“I think scrutiny has other more important things to do.”