The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s managers exposed the local authority to “unacceptable levels of risk” on its contracted-out recycling (blue bag) service – according to a scathing report by the council’s own Head of Audit.
On March 10th 2014 the Vale’s so-called “cabinet” – then comprising seven senior councillors – approved the award of a three-year contract for the processing of what it calls “Co-Mingled Recyclable Materials” [stuff like newspapers and packaging that people put in blue bags for kerbside collection] to a Leicester-based firm, Casepak Ltd.
The deal was that Casepak took all the 12,000 tonnes of material gathered every year from 55,000 Vale householders back to their “Materials Recycling Facility” and would extract 95% of it for recycling.
Cllr Rob Curtis (Labour Gibbonsdown) – at the time the ‘cabinet’ Member for the Environment and Visible Services – issued a press statement saying how pleased he was to be “working in partnership with Casepak” .
Because it was now very urgent to get the new contractor started, the ‘cabinet” invoked the Vale Council’s so-called “urgent decision procedure” so that work could begin on the required start date of 1st April 2014.
…But – despite all that – no one in the Vale Council saw to it that the vitally important “urgent” contract with Casepak was actually signed.
In October 2014, when the Vale’s internal audit department checked-up, they found there was still no formal contract in place – despite the fact that the operation had already been running for 7 months.
In December 2014 the Vale’s audit department issued a “Limited Assurance report ” – drawing the council’s manager’s attention to the problem. The council managers wrote back assuring the auditors everything was just fine and a formal contract would be in place in the “immediate future” – with an “implementation date of December 2014”.
…But nothing happened .
In February 2015 Cllr Rob Curtis resigned from the ‘cabinet’ claiming that he “found it a struggle to juggle my commitments with that and the NHS” -[ but see PDN http://tinyurl.com/hwevv6z ]
On March 4th 2015 the full Vale of Glamorgan Council was informed that Cllr Curtis’s responsibilities – which included recycling and waste management – would be shared amongst the remaining members of the ‘cabinet’ .
Specifically, Cllr Curtis’s former waste management and recycling portfolio would become the responsibility of Cllr Gwyn John (Independent Llantwit Major) who was designated as “Cabinet Member for Visible and Leisure Services”
In April 2015 the auditors carried out a follow-up review. They found 12 months after the start of operations the long-awaited contract with Casepak was still not in place.
Yet another “Limited Assurance” report was made – reflecting that all was not well in the organisation. Yet again the council’s managers were asked just what was going on.
….Another eight months elapsed.
Not until December 18th 2015 was a formal contract for the recycling service eventually signed – with an implementation date of January 2016 – a full 20 months after the service had actually started .
The Head of Audit says in his scathing report – “It is without doubt that the failure to secure a signed and legally binding contract has exposed the Council to unacceptable levels of risk. .. Some of the possible risks could include but are not limited to: inadequate performance, operational dispute; charging issues; reputational damage; future service delivery and health and safety.”
Luckily for the Vale Council, and its tardy managers, none of the possible contractual difficulties actually did arise. Despite not having a contract, Casepak had cracked-on with the job and did everything it was supposed to. But if a problem had arisen, the Vale Council wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on .
Now – “to ensure that this situation cannot occur again” the council’s internal audit department will “review all other Waste Contracts and a sample of cross directorate contracts” – just in case there are more black holes to be found in the council’s administration.
Meanwhile the council’s internal auditors have also been investigating another mystery – the “apparent loss of a significant number of commercial blue bags “.