Agenda item

Agenda item

Central Bedfordshire Council - Public Interest Disclosure regarding the Partnership the Council has entered into for Legal Services


To consider a letter from Ernst & Young LLP to the Chief Executive of Central Bedfordshire Council summarising the company’s findings and conclusions following a review into the Council’s arrangements for the procurement of legal services.



(Note: Before considering the following item, and in view of its subject matter, the Committee was asked whether it wished to allow the Monitoring Officer to remain in the meeting.  No objections were raised by Members to the Monitoring Officer’s presence for this item so he remained in the meeting).


The Committee received a letter from an Executive Director of the Council’s external auditors, Ernst and Young LLP, to the Chief Executive of the Council.  Members noted that, following a meeting on 19 April 2016 between the Chief Executive and the Executive Director, the letter had been written by the latter to confirm his position regarding his review of the Council’s arrangements for the procurement of legal services.  Members were aware that the review had arisen following a Public Interest Disclosure from a whistleblower concerning the approach taken by the Council on the procurement.


After introducing his letter the Ernst & Young Executive Director concluded that, whilst there had been no unlawful act by the Council in its procurement of legal services, there had been weaknesses in some aspects of the Council’s written documentation and evidence to support the decision making process.  He had therefore recommended that the Council should ensure that, in any future procurements of a similar nature, sufficient and appropriate evidence was available to support each stage of the decision making process and the Council’s assertions.  The Executive Director had also recommended that the Council should revisit its Constitution and ensure that it reflected how the Council should respond when either considering options and/or intended to make a decision that involved entering into a shared service arrangement.  He then stated that, unless new information was received during the course of the External Audit and before the conclusion of the public inspection period for the Council’s 2015-2016 accounts, he considered the matter to be closed and no further action would be taken.


The Executive Director explained that, as his work on the Disclosure had fallen outside the scope of Ernst & Young’s budgeted audit work, there would be an additional fee of approximately £8,500.  In response to this the Chief Finance Officer welcomed the fact that the fee figure was lower than the initial estimate.  He also emphasised that the review had been carried out in a full and proper manner and he completely accepted its findings.


The Chairman stated that he had been kept informed throughout the review process and his opinion sought at various points.  He stressed that the issues highlighted by the Executive Director should be thoroughly dealt with and, where recommended, formally enshrined in the Constitution.  The meeting was advised by the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee, who was in attendance, that that Committee would be considering a report on this matter at its next meeting on 30 July 2016.  The Monitoring Officer, who had written the report referred to by the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee, explained that detail had been taken from the Executive Director’s letter and included in his report and that the issues raised had been addressed.


Members then raised a number of additional queries.  In particular a Member sought clarification on what specific concerns had been raised with regard to the Council’s procurement process.  In response the Executive Director stated that the concerns had related to a conflict of interests, compliance with regulations and procurement law, and value for money.  The Member stated that a particular concern expressed by another bidding organisation was that a person who represented a bidder also worked for the Council.  In response the Executive Director explained that the Council had taken steps to remove the individual from the decision making process.  The Executive Director stated that he was satisfied that this action had helped though it had not been documented by the Council to the extent required.




the letter to the Chief Executive from Ernst & Young LLP regarding the company’s findings and conclusions following its review into the Council’s arrangements for the procurement of legal services.




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