Concerns have been expressed over a lack of companies interested in tendering for stewarding contracts with Derry & Strabane Council.
Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher, speaking at the May Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee meeting, claimed that a number of events to provide information to prospective tenders attracted a very poor response.
The issue was raised five months on from the Council being called upon to take urgent action after a catalogue of absent documentation and “significant weaknesses” around the former Derry City Council’s “shambolic” process for awarding security contracts was uncovered.
The external review was ordered after two internal investigations were carried out concerning allegations raised by two complainants, which included a claim that the former council had awarded contracts to a company under Single Tender Actions, without competition.
Colr. Gallagher said there remained public perception issues, and questioned what the council could do to give assurances they would not be increasing single tenders.
“There was some pre-emptive work done and meetings for information around if you are going to submit a tender, and nobody showed up. There’s a real confidence issue there with people not submitting tenders,” he said.
Stephen Gillespie, the Council’s Director of Business and Culture, responded that a lot of different tenders were issued by the council and disagreed that nobody was coming forward for them. He also said that there was no increase in single tender actions, adding that the new council wanted to work with “the widest possible” pool of suppliers.
“The issue of nobody showing up is in respect of one aspect of tender, this is well rehearsed in here, security in terms of festivals and events. Work is ongoing to ensure they have confidence.”
Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly claimed the issue was not limited to stewarding. He added: “This issue about confidence- it’s not there, let’s be brutally honest,” and queried what measures have been taken to review the tendering process.
A Council officer said that all the recommendations made previously were being implemented “right across the board”, with all staff involved in tendering undergoing fresh training.
SDLP Councillor Gus Hastings said the current process was “transparent” while DUP Councillor Hilary McClintock said: “We have confidence the procedures are stringent.”