The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board – which is supposed to manage NHS hospitals and GP services in the capital and in the Vale of Glamorgan – has come in for excoriating criticism today from the Wales Auditor General.
In a report issued today, the Auditor General Huw Vaughan Thomas says the way the Health Board procured and managed human resources consultancy contracts (i.e. personnel consultancy contracts) “fell well short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of a public body”.
His report finds that when the Board awarded consultancy contracts to a company called RKC Associates Ltd in November 2014 and June 2015 , it failed to ensure the integrity of the procurement process .
The report says the award of these contracts “breached public procurement rules and exposed the Health Board to unnecessary financial and reputational risk” and left the Board in a position in which it could not prove that the contracts had been awarded fairly, transparently, and lawfully… or that it had obtained value for money for taxpayers.
The consultancy contracts had been awarded to address what is described as “a shortfall in HR leadership capacity at the Health Board” . RKC Associates Ltd were paid over £290,000 for filling-in for the so-called “Director of Workforce and and Organisational Development” – when that postholder was seconded to another part of the NHS .
Eventually the holder of that post left the employment of the Health Board. Candidates who’d applied for the vacancy “withdrew for various reasons”. The one and only director of RKC Associates Ltd – Rajvinder Kaur Chana – was interviewed and subsequently offered the job on a one-year fixed-term contract worth £150,000.
The report found that this appointment process was “fundamentally compromised, lacked transparency and was poorly documented”.
The Auditor General Huw Vaughan Thomas said today “This is the first time as Auditor General that I have issued a report in the public interest on an NHS body. There were numerous and significant failings and the actions of the Health Board fell well short of expected standards which has led to me taking this highly unusual step.”
Mr Thomas says “There are clear procedures that need to be followed to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently and effectively – and, in this case, they were disregarded.”
He says “I’ve issued this report to highlight these failings, to hold Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to account, and in the hope that other organisations will take heed and not repeat these mistakes.”
Companies House records show that a Rajvinder Kaur Chana resigned from RKC Associates in 2016 but, according to Companies House has, in the past, also served the boards of other companies including one called Nude by Nature Ltd.
The Cardiff and Vale Health Board has 10 salaried, so-called “Independent Members” on it – 2 of whom are current Labour councillors, whilst a number of other members have links of various kinds with the Welsh Labour “establishment” and its offshoots. There are no Conservative councillors on the Health Board .
Penarth’s Conservative AM Andrew R T Davies (Leader of the Welsh Conservatives and AM for South Wales Central) has called the situation “deeply troubling” and has said there are serious questions that need answering.
Mr Davies said, “It is deeply worrying to find that such serious issues could occur in a £100bn organisation – and there are serious questions for the chair and directors of the Health Board to answer. To find out that the health board could not demonstrate that the contracts were awarded fairly, transparently, lawfully or obtained value for money for the taxpayer is extremely concerning – and there will be widespread anger among staff.
Angela Burns, health spokeswoman for the Welsh Conservatives, said the report would “shake to its core public confidence in how the Cardiff and Vale health board’s senior management team conducts its work”.