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Isle of Wight Council could face contract probe


CONSULTANT High-Point Rendel (HPR) was awarded work worth £894,000 without following EU competition rules, according to a report into procurement at the Isle of Wight Council seen by NCE this week.

Local government watchdog the Audit Commission confi med it was looking into the report and could investigate the Council.

However, the Council justified the direct award of work without competition. Principal highway services engineer Nick Gallin told NCE that the Council appointed a consultant from its approved list of suppliers because it was an 'emergency' for which there is provision under EU procurement law.

HPR declined to comment.

In Scarborough in 2004 the same consultant was slammed by the Audit Commission for picking up £4.2M of work from the Council 'unlawfully'. There was no emergency in this case (NCE 16/30 December 2004).

HPR was bought in by the Isle of Wight Council to consult on a section of the A3055 after it collapsed following a landslip in 2001. 'High Point Rendel is an authority in this field. It has done work with Undercliff since the 1980s, which they have won in open competition.

'It was on the Council's coastal management selection list. It was brought on to this scheme in 2001 because of its expertise and background knowledge. It was an emergency situation, ' said Gallin.

The situation came to light after the council commissioned consultant QP to investigate its procurement processes.

At a council meeting on 8 November, members heard that HPR's contract to advise on reconstruction of part of the A3055 did not follow EU procurement rules. These state that schemes above £157,477 must be put out to tender in the Offi al Journal of the European Union.

'No contract was created between the Council and High Point Rendel for the consultancy work carried out on the Undercliff Defence Scheme, ' said the report.

The Audit Commission said it was aware of the situation and was looking into it. A spokesman said: 'We have been made aware of the situation from a local person and we are considering the information we have been given by the council.

We are obliged to look at it.'

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