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OFMDFM caught out repeatedly breaking Procurement Rules

16 June 2011

Call for inquiry into what has been going on in OFMDFM


Statement by TUV Leader Jim Allister:-


“Within Government there are supposed to be tight rules governing procurement. Central to these rules is the requirement for competitive tendering. Any departure from the competitive tendering requires the express permission of the department’s Accounting Officer. Supposedly, if a department wants to award a contract on the basis of a tender from only one party it must not just justify it to the Accounting Officer but he/she must take professional advice from both the Central Procurement Directorate (under DFP) and the Departmental Solicitors Office.


“These hurdles are in place to ensure, inter alia, that public money is not directed to a favoured supplier and to guarantee that full competitive tendering is followed in all but the most exceptional circumstances.


“By way of the Assembly Question and Answer below I have established that since the DUP/Sinn Fein coalition came to power in OFMDFM in 2007 they have on no fewer than 8 occasions flagrantly breached these rules. £373,716 of public money has been awarded on the basis of single tenders, without either recourse to competitive tendering or seeking the permission of the Accounting Officer. In one case the spend was £270,000, handed out on a single tender basis.


“This is a shocking state of affairs which shows gross contempt for how public money is spent and the regulations on procurement, which are supposed to govern such spend. It is not credible to explain away this systematic defiance of the spending rules as an “oversight”. Once maybe, but 8 times, hardly!


“I am referring this matter to the Audit Office for a full inquiry and I will also pursue it by further questions.”


Assembly Question:-

To ask the First Minister and deputy First Minister, in relation to procurement by their Department, (i) on how many occasions, since May 2007, a supplier has been secured before authorisation byhe Accounting Officer and why; and (ii) the level of expenditure in each case.



In relation to procurement, Accounting Officer authorisation is only specifically required for Single Tender Actions.


Since May 2007, OFMDFM secured eight suppliers through single tender action before authorisation by the Accounting Officer was secured. These assignments had a combined value of £373,716. The table below details the level of expenditure in each case.





Single Tender Actions since May 2007 with no prior Accounting Officer Approval

Financial Year        Single Tender Action               Expenditure £

2008-09                     Safeguarding Policy                        13,510

2008-09                   Consultation of Parents                       4,500

2008-09                  Public Appointment Survey                  6,965

2008-09           Review of Capital Asset Realisation

                                          Taskforce                                 51,750

2009-10                     Play and Leisure Policy                  270,000

2010-11                      NI Water Investigation                     24,500

2010-11            Software Licence and telephone support    2,150

2010-11                       Software Maintenance                         341

                                                     Total Expenditure     £373,716


In conjunction with the Minister for Finance and Personnel, we asked Ed Vernon to lead the Capital Assets Realisations Taskforce. The Northern Ireland Water Investigation was taken by us on behalf of the Executive due to the specialist nature of the assignments.


Failure to obtain prior Accounting Officer approval in the remaining cases was an oversight.


Retrospective Departmental Accounting Officer approval has been obtained in each case.


Guidelines on the use of single tender actions have been re-issued to all staff in the Department and its Arms Length Bodies. Staff have been reminded that any proposal to procure through Single Tender Action must be supported by a case to the Departmental Accounting Officer, setting out the rationale and justification for doing so. In considering each case, the Accounting Officer takes account of the professional advice of Central

Procurement Directorate and the Departmental Solicitors Office of the Department of Finance and Personnel.


Departmental Accounting Officer approval is required before awarding any contract through a single tender action.


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