Croydon Council has made it into Private Eye again this week. And that’s not a good thing.
Two years ago, the fortnightly news and satire magazine exposed some questionable dealings at the Town Hall over the awarding of a multi-million-pound contract for transport services to a Merton Park-based company, and some key council appointments connected to the process.
In September 2009, the mini-cab firm was awarded the £6.5 million contract to ferry disabled children between home and school in Croydon. As Private Eye reported, there were cheaper tenders for the work from better-qualified firms based in Croydon.
The decision to award the lucrative contract to Olympic South appeared to be based on advice from Michael Lawrence, a former transport officer at Sutton who was appointed as a consultant by Croydon’s deputy chief executive responsible for procurement, Nathan Elvery.
Soon after Olympic South won its Croydon tender, Lawrence went to work for the cab firm, according to the Eye on a £100,000 salary plus company Merc.
After reading the magazine’s reports, Croydon councillors last year ordered an inquiry into the matter. An internal council investigation found no evidence of fraud, although Croydon CEO Jon Rouse was forced to admit that the inquiry “raised concerns with the evaluation process”.
Shortly afterwards, Peter Storey, a procurement manager, left his council job after a period of suspension, and all Croydon’s transport contracts were put out to tender once again.
According to this week’s Private Eye, Olympic South has lost out badly in the re-bidding process, with the announcement of the outcome due to be made next week.
“Even the new bidding process was controversial to the last,” the Eye reports.
“Coach and minibus operators had to submit bids electronically; cab and taxi owners on paper. At 11.36am on 14 December, months after bidding opened and with less than half an hour to go before the deadline, the council sent an email extending the deadline by 24 hours.
“The council says this was for ‘technical’ reasons and no last-minute bids were submitted.”