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Scarborough Council probes unlawful contracts awards

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SCARBOROUGH BOROUGH Council last week started its investigation into the unlawful award of fi ve consultancy contracts worth £4.2M to HighPoint Rendel.

It will examine the contract conditions and its own constitution and will question staff members involved in the projects to find out what went wrong.

'Be assured that I will ask the questions that the council taxpayers are entitled to have answered, ' said investigating party chairman, Councillor Michael Goode.

The council was blasted by the Audit Commission in December for awarding design and supervision contracts to consultant High-Point Rendel without advertising the work for competitive tender (NCE 16/30 December 2004).

Each contract was worth more than £154,477, above the threshold that required they be advertised across Europe in line with European Union (EU) procurement laws.

The commission added that the council had tried to justify awarding the work with a 'bogus' report prepared after contracts were given out, and not before as the council had claimed.

The investigation will be held in public and will determine how and why the contracts were awarded illegally and whether safeguards introduced after the event are adequate.

In the fi rst of the public meetings the six strong investigating panel heard evidence from the council's new head of legal services, Ian Anderson and principal programme and procurement officer, Chris Bourne.

Anderson told the officials that the council's framework for awarding contracts had changed since he was appointed eight months ago.

He told the panel that clear information on the EU's procurement rules has now been added to the council's own contract procedures. Any divergence from EU rules must now be approved by him personally, he added.

The investigating party will report to a council cabinet meeting on 9 May.

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