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.”
The report on the strategy, which comes into effect in March, stated: “Effective and efficient procurement positively supports the council in achieving its priorities. The procurement strategy provides a clear and consistent framework to ensure our procurement activities support all services to meet national priorities and Falkirk Council priorities.”
Councillor Robert Spears said: “We need to start looking after our own and our own area. It should be part of our procurement strategy to help local businesses and local employment.”
Councillor Martin said the strategy strives to try and give local businesses a fair crack at contracts.
Falkirk Council’s procurement strategy for 2017 to 2020 has a number of priorities to meet to make sure best value is achieved.
Purchasing a wide range of goods, services and works, the council spends a substantial amount on everything from cleaning materials to new build housing projects.
Over 2015/16 the council spent almost £30 million on procurement with around £6 million of that total, 28 per cent, being attributed to Social Services, £4.6 million – 23 per cent – going to Children’s Services and £500,000, just three per cent, allocated to Falkirk Community Trust.
Effective governance helps maintain high standards and best practice and the council’s structure for procurement is led by a procurement board chaired by the director of corporate and housing services.
The local authority’s procurement activities are supported by professional advice and assistance from the council’s governance and internal audit divisions. Procurement strategy objectives and actions will be monitored on a quarterly basis by the procurement board and the delivery of the action plan for 2017 to 2020 will be subject to review by internal audit, with reports also going to the council’s executive committee.
It is vital that the strategy achieves savings and this can be accomplished through effective procurement activity.
A high level of accessibility is needed and this can be obtained by ensuring contracts are structured in such a way as to assist, wherever practical, local suppliers micro, small and medium enterprises and the third sector to tender for council business.
Fostering effective relations with key suppliers can also help provide a high standard of service provision.
The council must also make sure all relevant contracts are arranged so they contain community benefits clauses and also take into account environmental sustainability.