Government risk assessment of Carillion published

The Public Accounts Select Committee has published a report into the risk assessments of Carillion in the run up to its failure. Here's a snippet:

"The Carillion assessments show that:

  • Although Carillion had been rated Amber owing to performance against contracts with the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice, it was not until after Carillion issued a profit warning in July 2017 that Government downgraded Carillion to Red. It appears the Government was not aware of Carillion’s financial distress until this point.
  • In November 2017, officials recommended a provisional Black rating for Carillion. However, following representations from the company, the Cabinet Office did not confirm the designation. Carillion collapsed less than two months later."

On a very strange (but welcome) transparency note, even the assessments themselves were made public.

What it appears to me is that by November 2017, plans should have been privately put in motion to forestall a potential (though not certain yet) entrance into administration, ie how to handle ongoing contracts, securing access to sites, etc. That for me is much more important than knowing exactly when the rating moved from amber to red and then finally to black.

On a final note: who and when had access to these risk assessment reports, ie only the Cabinet Office or the wider public sector which could have been tendering contracts with Carillion as a bidder.

After Carillion, Government looks into partially changing its procurement practice

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington has told the Liaison Committee of the House of Commons the following:

“We in government have started to look at lessons in terms of how we go about contracting with companies, [and consider] whether we want to revisit the question of seeking best value for money by getting large contractors in to manage wide ranging, complex projects.

[...]

If a government department were to decide that they wanted to let smaller companies bid for a number of different contacts, that would mean more in-house resource and expertise in the procurement and management”.

I, for one, welcome the (partial) recognition that perhaps more in-house resource for procurement and contract management is not a bad idea overall. But I have not forgotten the multiple instances where Government officials had bragged how "efficient" (ie, cheap) procurement was done in the UK in comparison with other Member States.

Picking up pennies in front of the steamroller as they say.

The problem with Lidington's view is not that larger contracts are bad in themselves (or worse than a multitude of smaller contracts), is that *especially* those monoliths need more resource for procurement and management.

But bearing in mind the approach of delivering Brexit on a shoe string, that is really not going to happen.

Links I Liked [Public Procurement]

1. Legal Aid contract(s) go pear shaped with dozens (hundreds?) of challenges. Whistleblower claims process was a shambles. Apparently, the tender document imposed 17 questions (sub)-divided into 3/4 parts each. Do you really need 50 different questions to identify the best bid (not bidder!) for the contract(s)? On the other hand, legal services are reaping what they sowed: if instead of lobbying for special treatment for ages (Part B Services anyone?), they had accepted to be a service like any other, both the MoJ and the bidders themselves would be used by now to the practice (and pitfalls) of procurement.

2. CJEU rattles the social considerations cage in RegioPost case. Albert cannot resist commenting on it at length and is preparing an event on the topic.

3. Programmer who bid $1 on 18F's open source contract experiment, speaks up. Again, I do not see anything wrong with his attitude and he garnered incredible levels of (free) publicity for his skills. Would this free publicity constitute a case of indirect State Aid in the EU? Nah...

4. Washington DC ponders more transparency to tackle corruption in public procurement. Open Contracting Partnership weighs in. On this side of the pond, claims that contract transparency is now stalled.

5. Cabinet Office considering Crown Marketplace, built around the Digital Marketplace platform. Would local government take it up?