New concerns have been expressed about the management of contracts issued by Derry City and Strabane District Council.
In 2015, the former Derry City Council was contacted by the Director of the Northern Ireland Audit Office regarding a number of allegations that had been made about the council’s tender procurement arrangements in specific areas.
A subsequent investigation found that there had been no wrongdoing but a large number of recommendations were put forward by an external audit organisation to improve the council’s tendering and awarding of contracts processes.
These recommendations were implemented within the new Derry City and Strabane District Council which came into operation in April 2015 following the amalgamation of Derry City Council and Strabane District Council.
An update on the implementation of the recommendations was brought before the council’s Audit, Assurance and Risk committee at the Guildhall on Thursday.
The meeting was told that of the 69 recommendations put forward, 55 are now fully implemented and 14 are now partially implemented.
As part of an internal audit review of the new processes, eight recent tenders awarded by the council were examined.
The report found that for 6 of the 8 procurement exercises, there were ‘no significant issues’ identified.
However, the internal audit did identify a number of ‘significant’ issues with the two tenders awarded by the council for stewarding of major events.
For both stewarding procurement exercises, it was confirmed that an external procurement professional was not available at the time of the evaluation exercise so the council was unable to comply with this element of the tender specification.
Additionally, the qualification/compliance checks were not carried out for the council events delivered in 2016.
These checks are aimed at ensuring that stewarding staff have the proper qualifications for the role.
Events staff later carried out the qualification/compliance checks for the 2016 events in February 2017.
Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, Sinn Fein councillor Maolíosa McHugh said he was concerned that the necessary checks had not been carried out in relation to the stewarding contracts.
“If there had been incidents at these events, somebody’s neck would have been on the line,” he said.
“We need to make sure that someone is responsible for carrying out these checks in the future.”
Independent councillor Gary Donnelly said that given the large amount of contracts issued by the council, he believed the council should have a dedicated procurement team to ensure ‘accountability’.
His comments were supported by another independent councillor, Paul Gallagher.
“If we don’t have a centralised procurement department, we will see the same mistakes,” said Colr Gallagher.
In relation to Colr McHugh’s comments, Stephen Gillespie, Director of Business and Culture at Derry City and Strabane District Council, told the meeting that the qualification checks should have been carried out at the end of each event.
“I can assure you that checks are being done and will be done at the end of each festival,” he said.
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