Derry businesses fail to show at council-run ‘building confidence’ event
7:01 Tuesday 8th of March 2016
An event organised by Derry City and Strabane Council aimed at “building confidence” with local businesses in the wake of complaints about security contracts resulted in no one showing up, it has emerged.
The event was hosted in the Guildhall earlier this year, and was organised in the wake of the publication of a report into how security and stewarding contracts were awarded by the old Derry City Council.
The review was ordered by John Kelpie, the chief executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council, after complaints were received from two firms by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) over how such contracts were awarded by the former council.
The report found that while there was no evidence of fraud, its authors described the procurement process used to award tenders as ‘shambolic’, and the allegations made had damaged the council’s image.
The review also put forward 69 recommendations aimed at tightening up the council’s procurement process in relation to awarding tenders.
In addition to the recommendations, council also hosted a “Suppliers Day” in the Guildhall, prior to which an invite was sent out to of the prospective suppliers in the council area.
The aim of the event was to “answer all queries on the upcoming tender exercises, to explain the new processes, to build confidence and to encourage suppliers to tender for the contracts.”
The council was represented by Senior Management, the Procurement Manager and Events Management.
However, it’s now emerged that the council staff were the only people present at the event, as none of the invited suppliers showed up.
The absence of any local suppliers at the event was revealed at a meeting of the council’s Assurance, Audit and Risk committee by James Harrigan, of the council’s audit team.
At the meeting, the independent councillor Gary Donnelly asked for an update on the council policy of ensuring the security staff council used for its events were properly qualified.
It comes after a security company employed by council to steward its Halloween and Christmas events last year had its payment docked after it emerged that some of its employees did not possess the necessary qualifications.
Responding, Stephen Gillespie, strategic director, said that a firm would have to provide proof that its employees were properly qualified before a tender was awarded.