Metropolitan Police Procurement comes out of IPCC report well

It’s not often you get a 20 page report, issued by a significant investigative body, and featured on the national news – all into a procurement exercise that ended up with a contract worth only around£20,000.

But that’s what we have with the recently published Independent Police Complaints Authority report into the engagement of Neil Wallis, the ex News of the World executive,  by Dick Fedorcio, the (then) Metropolitan Police Head of Public Affairs.

Sienna Miller at Levenson phone-hacking inquiry (Pic: BBC)

It’s all tied up with the phone hacking scandal – which we won’t get into here – but the report looks at whether  Fedorcio and the Met went through the proper processes when engaging  Wallis. (Fedorcio resigned recently which curtails any disciplinary action against him).

The first thing to say is how well the Met’s procurement team and process come out of this – it looks like a pretty much exemplary performance from them. They had procedures in place; and they refused to let Fedorcio engage Wallis on a “single tender” approach (i.e. without competition). They advised Fedorcio he should get three quotes, in line with policy, but because of the low contract value, that was his responsibility, not something procurement would do for him (fair enough). Procurement also told him, correctly, that a “retainer” wasn’t the best sort of commercial arrangement in this case, and suggested appropriate performance measures. Finally, they advised on how he should manage the contract. Good stuff!

So why is the report critical of the Met and Fedorcio? Three things.

1. Fedorcio effectively engaged Wallis before he went through the procurement process – which he did win fairly in terms of his price of £1000 a day. But Wallis had already done some limited work at that point.

2. The contract wasn’t managed in any real sense – there was no evidence of what Wallis actually did for his money.

3.  Wallis should have been vetted before he was engaged.

Could procurement have done more? Perhaps checked up on the contract management issue? I don’t think so, give the size of the Met and the size of this contract. Procurement doesn’t have the resources to check on every £20,000 contract.

The issue that really struck me though was this. Fedorcio clearly didn’t behave quite as the rules suggested. But if we examined any large organisation, how often would we see a professional services provider engaged and starting work before a formal contract was in place? A lawyer, consultant, PR adviser taken on by senior managers before a proper process was put in place? Or a budget holder who failed to keep good records of that provider’s performance and deliverables?

I suspect that if we disciplined every senior manager in every organisation who has been guilty of those sins, Boardrooms of the world would be empty indeed.  So I have a little sympathy for Fedorcio and the Met – how many organisations would stand up to this sort of scrutiny I wonder?!

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