Orkney Islands Council’s purchase of stone to be shipped in from a quarry near Oban has been deemed ‘unsatisfactory’ in an internal audit of the scandal.
The stone is estimated to cost £1,444,000.
The report card on the council recommends 5 high priority actions:
- The Council must ensure that it has robust and effective monitoring of compliance with its Financial Regulations, Contract Standing Orders and Sustainable Procurement Policy.
- The Council should have procedural processes and arrangements for monitoring and governance over the use of lotting strategies.
- A sustainability impact assessment should be carried out for contracts of this nature.
- The Council should review the setting of unlimited amounts for purchase orders.
- Members must be briefed in sufficient detail to be able to scrutinise proposed activity effectively.
The order was for 80,000 tonnes of stone and right from the start of the process the procedures which are in place to ensure this kind of thing does not happen were not followed.
There is no record of purchase orders being sent to suppliers to get quotes.
“it was not carried out in an open and transparent manner”
The internal audit revealed that ” the Officer approving these orders has unlimited purchase order authority”.
This sorry tale links back to the refusal to extend operations at The Cursiter Quarry.
On 11 November 2020, the audit report states, a Briefing Note, entitled Cursiter Quarry Planning Appeal was sent to all elected Members and the Corporate Management Team. It was agreed by the OIC Senior Management Team that ‘the dual approach of submitting a planning appeal and progressing a revised planning application should be pursued’.
It was also agreed to have a
“blend of imported material “
It appears this ‘importation of material’ was accepted and would work alongside ‘ reprofiling of some of the existing quarry faces with resultant additional cost implications arising for the Council and local contractors until such time as the expansion of the quarry can be secured.’
The phrase ‘blend of imported material’ is vague in the extreme and no one seems to have asked – neither councillors or management – for more details.
You can download the internal audit report here:
Commenting Interim Chief Executive John Mundell said the review, conducted by the Council’s Internal Audit team, had highlighted serious breaches of OIC’s own purchasing policies and procedures.
“This is completely unacceptable and I will do everything possible to make sure this cannot happen again.
“The fundamental failings the review identified should never have occurred. This is a very serious matter and it is only right that I offer an apology to our community on behalf of the Council.
“I instructed the Chief Internal Auditor to investigate compliance with our policies and procedures as soon as practicable after I became aware of the circumstances involved in the importation into Orkney of around 80,000 tonnes of stone.
“It is clear that the internal audit was conducted in a thoroughly professional, objective, open and transparent way. The report speaks for itself – serious mistakes have been made and these are highlighted in detail.
“The Council has robust purchasing procedures in place, but they were not followed or complied with on this occasion. I very much regret these circumstances. You have my absolute commitment that I will do everything in my power to ensure that, as far as practicable, these mistakes cannot be repeated.
“I have spent many years working in local government in Scotland and I believe there is much to be proud of in Orkney. I value this Council’s workforce. Our staff our dedicated and loyal. But we are all human and all capable of making errors of judgement.
“It is how effectively matters are now handled that will prove the worth of the organisation moving forwards.”