Mae’r llain tewhau* in Wales – and Olympic gifts..

You may remember – although it is a while ago – we featured a story of laptops, bought from a Welsh government procurement framework by Torfaen Council. That turned into a wider investigation into the running of an IT shared services operation, and two men were arrested in October last year.

Well, our sources tell us that the plot has thickened, like a well reduced sauce bubbling nicely in Jamie Oliver’s kitchen. In February the council had to plough £400,000 from reserves into the shared operation accounts to cover 'unexpected and unauthorised one-off costs' incurred.  Here’s the South Wales Argus.

A flagship data centre, currently the subject of a police probe, is set to cost Torfaen council another £400,000 because of unapproved decisions, a report to the authority says. The £3 million Shared Resource Service (SRS) at Victoria House, Blaenavon, was designed to be the IT nerve centre for Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils and Gwent Police.  But now the high-tech service is at the centre of a police investigation and Torfaen is being asked to pay a one off cost for what it says are unknown or unapproved decisions made or instigated at senior officer level. The council’s cabinet members will be asked at their meeting tomorrow to approve this unbudgeted cost of approximately £400,000.

The Council don’t appear to understand exactly how costs have arisen, and more recently we’ve heard rumours that there may be over a million pounds “at risk” – that may not all have been misused, but there’s potentially the sort of sum that needs clarity in terms of its use.

Apparently the Welsh Audit Office are now involved (well, you would jolly well hope so really...)

There’s also, our sources suggest, some doubt around the whole innovative “Learning Management System” that the laptops were supposedly bought to support, and when exactly all the equipment will actually benefit the schools – and children – it was apparently bought to support.  So, we’ll wait with interest again to see what happens next.

This is yet another example of the eternal vigilance against fraud, corruption (and indeed general incompetence) that we have to keep up in the procurement world, whether it is taxpayers’ or shareholders' money at stake.

That includes avoiding anything that might appear to be corrupt – and we’ve had some good discussion around our Olympics Freebie post the other day. The  comments here are firmly on the side of the 4-day “golden ticket” we featured being an unacceptable offer, and I particularly liked the idea that CIPS should make some formal comment about the issue. As our commentator “watcher of the skies” suggests:

“I now want to see David Noble citing this (type of) case in a public statement to the press, saying that it is illegal under the Bribery Act and that CIPS formally rejects it and will expel any CIPS member known to have accepted such as bribe”.

Over to you, Easton House....

* I’m hoping that translates as “the plot thickens”

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