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Fears Powys hasn’t learnt from new schools fiasco

Created on 06/09/2019 @ 09:51
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Fears have been raised that Powys County Council (PCC) could give building contracts to companies on the brink of collapse again.

That is unless unless the staff have the right skills and the ability to ask for help from the outside, and follow new guidelines issued by the Welsh Government, it has been claimed.

In August, PCC’s audit committee looked at the procurement procedures that were in place when the authority went ahead and picked Dawnus and Jistcourt for building projects.

Earlier this year both companies went bust, leaving PCC with a mess.

The new school on Salop Road, Welshpool, was left half built with the need to find new contractors to continue with several building projects.

Audit committee vice-chairman and independent member, John Brautigam, will bring a report in front of the committee today (Friday) noting extra concerns he has on Powys County Council’s due diligence process.

He believes that a new framework “Assessing and Monitoring the Economic and Financial Standing of Suppliers”, recently published by the Welsh Government, goes part of the way to addressing the procurement issues that led PCC to appointing both Dawnus and Jistcourt.

Mr Brautigam said: “I have now had the chance to go through this paper in some detail. It is truly excellent and if followed diligently would provide a robust framework for the future.”

Mr Brautigam says that the paper calls for:

·      A rigorous pre-contract financial assessment using all available sources

·      An assessment of other non-financial factors which might affect performance.

·      A duty for potential and current contractors to declare ‘Financial Distress Events.’

Mr Brautigam continued: “This is substantially what I have been calling for, although I would have liked it to include other factors such as director or key personnel changes.

“And, perhaps most importantly, that the assessment should be conducted by staff with a financial background who may call on other expertise in-house or external as required.”

Taken as a whole, Mr Brautigam, believes this paper would have provided a framework that would have seen PCC avoid the contractual problems it has suffered this year.

“However, I believe that unless the last point on the skills required is addressed the authority could be in danger of a repeat occurrence,” stressed Mr Brautigam.

In March, Dawnus (Welsh for talented) went bust, leaving the 360-pupil English-medium primary school in Welshpool partly built.

It had been expected that the staff and pupils would have moved there by now, for the new school year. But the delay will take at least a year as PCC go through a new tendering process.

The last two projects, a Welsh medium school in Welshpool and a new building for an all-through primary and secondary school in Machynlleth, are still at the planning stage.

Administrators for Jistcourt were appointed on June 27.

PCC believes that work at the site to build 26 flats at the Old Bowling Club site in Newtown, the first social building project by the council in 30 years, could start sometime in the next six months.

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