Sandwell Council ready to abandon the system for awarding transport contracts

Sandwell Council is set to abandon its own system, which awards transportation businesses in borough contracts to transport vulnerable children to and from school, despite the system taking more than two years to build.

a . Feather cabinet meeting Tomorrow (January 12), Sandwell Council was held Approved recommendations for leaving your own contracting process And the “mini-contest” was launched under its own Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) – an exercise that took more than two years to plan and build.

The council acknowledged that it does not currently have a wide pool of contractors to carry out transportation for school children, instead considering four large contracts to be “unsuitable and undesirable”.

Read more:Changes to scandal-hit Sandwell council ‘must be accepted’, says Keir Starmer

The other recommendation accepted was to extend existing contracts with providers for the continued provision of SEND transport from the current end date of 23 February 2022 to 21 July 2022.

The council also said that companies that had originally bid for the contracts would be notified and invited to apply again. It is not clear whether the council will now be subject to legal action.

While this expansion means that families with vulnerable children will continue to use much-needed transportation in the Sandwell borough, it is an admission to the council itself that it is unclear how they plan to proceed.

In an external audit review by Grant Thornton released on December 31, he Said that the council should ensure another contract extension not necessary”.

In statement read in the meeting, Clerk Karen Sims (Lab, Fryer Park), and Cabinet Member for Children and Education, said: “I am confident with all the information that I have been given a new procurement exercise that will begin almost immediately.

“This includes provisions to address the identified concerns and issues and provide the best solution for service users and their families.

“I hope this provides sufficient assurance for the council regarding quality and provisioning, and provides the most economical and sustainable solutions.

“The main concern is making sure children go to school because they need to be in the best sources we can provide for them.”

This comes as a damning report, obtained on Monday by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), indicated several failures on the part of the council to follow its procedures in awarding and handling contracts.

The report in question, called ‘Send Passenger Transport Contract Initial Findings June 2021’, alleged that while the council was “desire to improve” and “desired to improve” the quality of transport services offered to Sandwell’s most vulnerable children inspired”, many council procedures were “not followed”.

Other allegations found in the internal review included:

  • Council procedures were not followed, including officials employed by the local authority, who were not declaring whether there was a potential conflict of interest with their contracts.
  • There is no written record of discussions to approve the high-risk decision to move more than 100 transportation contracts to just four contracts.
  • Lack of a clear written record of the decision-making process in contracts.
  • The incomplete and “significant overlap” of information submitted by taxi firms raises the question of whether transport bids by the companies were acceptable.
  • Questions over how the contracts awarded in June 2021 were calculated at £5.5 million, despite £2.5 million remaining in the budget for transport services for vulnerable school children.

While the report noted that “negative findings” have come to the fore following a fiasco decision to award a £20 million transport contract to Azim Hafeez – a former Sandwell employee – he insisted that it would play “a role” in the report’s results. Didn’t play”.

It is not clear whether the sealed document will now be made public.

An unnamed source told LDRS that councilors on Tuesday evening (January 11) voted in favor of conducting an external audit into the mishandling of transport contracts for vulnerable school children. It was based on a three to three split voting and abstinence.

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