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Gradon Consulting Ltd contract information

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Dear Northamptonshire County Council,

Background

In 2016 the independent auditor for Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) issued an “adverse value-for-money opinion” on the council. http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/n...

In October this year seven Northamptonshire MPs held an emergency meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss the findings of an independent review of NCC’s finances by the Local Government Association. http://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news....

According to NCC’s published supplier spending data, over the last four years payments to suppliers have risen on average by 8.2% per annum – 26.7% in total.

In October 2017 NCC’s Cabinet met to discuss how to find budget savings of £9.6 million http://www3.northamptonshire.gov.uk/news...
Two of the five objectives discussed at that meeting were:
• To strengthen commissioning processes to get better value for money
• To make better use of the workforce and avoid agency or locum staff

Gradon Consulting Ltd

In September 2016 an officer on the NCC payroll who had held positions including Director of Human Resources and LGSS Director of People, Transformation and Transactions left the authority to become Director of Gradon Consulting Ltd, a company she had set up three months earlier. On 9th November 2016 NCC made its first payment to Gradon Consulting Ltd for £15,990 presumably for work performed in October. Up to the latest available supplier payment dataset (Sept 2017) NCC has made ten payments to Gradon Consulting Ltd totalling £164,940 (no payment shown for July 2017).

Requests
I would like NCC to send me the following documents under FOI:
1) A copy of NCC’s full contract with Gradon Consulting Ltd, including dates and signatures. Please note the comment in the Local Government Transparency Code 2015 about commercial confidentiality:
“The Government has not seen any evidence that publishing details about contracts entered into by local authorities would prejudice procurement exercises or the interests of commercial organisations,..”
2) A copy of the advertisement(s) relating to the above contract award opportunity published by NCC and/or LGSS
3) A copy of the contract award notice(s) for the above contract and details of where it/they were published.
4) Copies of all invoices submitted by Gradon Consulting Ltd to NCC to date.

In addition, can you please explain why there is no reference to NCC’s contract with Gradon Consulting Ltd in the LGSS procurement contracts register?

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Rowson

Freedom of Information,

Dear Mr Rowson,

 

Freedom of Information Request: FR7779

 

I am writing to acknowledge your request for information dated 16/11/2017.

 

Our team is dealing with your request and we will be in contact with you
soon. If you have any queries about this email, please contact me quoting
the reference FR7779 in any future communications.

 

You should expect a further response within 20 working days.

 

Kind regards

 

Sarah Jobling

Senior Administrator

Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team

Business Intelligence and Project Management

Northamptonshire County Council

 

Tel: 01604 368360

[1][email address]

[2]www.northamptonshire.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Freedom of Information,

17 Attachments

Good Afternoon,

 

Please see attached response

 

Kind regards

 

Tracey Gilkes

FOI / DP Admin

Northamptonshire County Council

Business Intelligence and Project Management

ONE Angel Square

Angel Street

Northampton

NN1 1ED

 

t : 01604 368360

e: [1][email address]

     [2][email address]

 

 

 

 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. mailto:[email address]

Dear Mr Deacon,

I am writing to ask for an internal review of the response to FR7779. This is because I have not received the information I requested, and the reasons given for not providing the requested information are inadequate and/or demonstrably false.

1) I was not given a copy of the full contract(s) I requested. The four contract type documents I received are not signed (the redacted lines are too narrow to mask signatures) and there are no contract reference numbers or council seals. There is no evidence to show that those documents aren’t completely different in every respect to the true contracts. Please send me faithful copies of the genuine signed contracts without any redactions of officer names or the names of Gradon Consulting Ltd directors or contractors – as I requested. There is no justification for redacting the names of senior LGSS officers – who must be held accountable for their actions, or the names of Gradon directors (whose names are in the public domain) or the contractor, who we already know is Christine Reed, the former LGSS Director of People, Transformation and Transactions (see https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c.... There is therefore a strong public interest in releasing this/these contracts and establishing how they were procured.

2) An advertisement was required even for the initial three month period. The contract value of that initial three months’ work was above the £25,000 threshold. It therefore required an advertisement, at least three comparable written quotations, a formal contract award notice etc. (see NCC’s Contract Procedure Rules, paragraphs 17.3 to 17.8.) However, the first two contracts have the same agreement date of September 30th 2016. This contradicts the assertion in the response that the extension contract beyond December 2016 only came about thanks to “other unforeseeable and subsequent changes in circumstances around the project”. It is clear that a contract length of twelve months or more was anticipated from the outset. That means the total value of the initial procurement decision was over £100,000, and so the more involved procurement requirements should have been followed: i.e. a former tender process, consultation with the Central Procurement and Legal teams etc. (Contract Procedure Rules paragraphs 18.1 to 18.7.)

a. The authority cannot claim that the requirement for additional programme management capacity came unexpectedly and urgently. The vacancy in programme management capacity – for which Ms Reed had “specific project and subject matter knowledge with the relevant and direct experience” and for which she was “uniquely” qualified – arose only because Ms Reed herself was made redundant in September 2016. With nine years’ service at NCC Ms Reed was entitled to at least nine weeks’ notice of the redundancy. Given the fact that she was formerly the Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at NCC/LGSS, and that in her last role her responsibilities included being “Responsible for Workforce Strategy, H/R Policy/Advisory, Workforce Development”, it seems reasonable to assume that she would have known about the redundancy well in advance. Indeed, she seems to have had at least three months’ advance notice because on June 21st 2016 her new company Gradon Consulting Ltd was incorporated at Companies House. The vacancy was evidently not unexpected and consequently there was no justification for breaching the procurement rules. Please acknowledge these facts and explain why the procurement rules were still not followed.

b. The suspicion that the lucrative contract role for Ms Reed was intended to continue beyond October 2017 comes from the reference in the response to a handover in that month. Clearly the work was still not complete, and the related ERP project is still ongoing, with the latest projected go-live date a year late. Please explain why, given Ms Reed’s unique qualifications for the role, the contract role came to an end in October 2017 with a handover to other parties, and why that one month long handover was not anticipated much earlier when the extension contract was agreed.

c. The response text suggests there were three separate contracts, yet four contract type documents were provided. None of them, as noted above, is a copy of a genuine contract. The third contract (Apr17) has dates that are already included within the second contract (20170201). This makes no sense. The payment data show that only one contract at £750 + VAT per day was being worked between April and September 2017. Please explain the overlapping dates in these documents, and provide copies of the original four contracts – all signed.
3) My request for a copy of the contract award notice has been ignored. Does such a document exist or was its omission the result of another unfortunate internal administrative oversight?

Cost effectiveness

Gradon Consulting Ltd (aka Christine Reed) at a contract rate of £750 per day compares with Christine Reed’s previous daily cost of around £530 when she was Director of People, Transformation and Transactions. Yet the FOI response asserts that the contract was very cost effective. Apart from the £220/day additional cost to taxpayers, there are two further challenges to that opinion:
1) Without advertising the role, and in all other ways keeping the contract secret from other potential bidders it was not possible for NCC to evaluate Christine Reed’s contract rates. The Council therefore had no way of knowing whether the initial £650/day, and subsequent £750/day rate represented good value for money.
2) Earlier this month LGSS published its 2016/17 financial statements six months late and only after being chased to do so. The officer remuneration section (p30) shows that in addition to her £62,000 basic salary for six months’ work (a 20% pro rata increase on 2015/16), Christine Reed was paid a £5,000 honorarium, received £1,000 in allowances and expenses, £51,000 in compensation for loss of office, and a £209,000 “pension strain” payment. With pension contribution of £9,000, the total employee remuneration package for the year was £337,000.

Can the Council please explain how this was cost effective, and why, if there was a recognised ongoing need for Ms Reed’s unique skillsets, was she not simply retained rather than made redundant – which would have saved local taxpayers an estimated £310,000 over the next thirteen months?

Finally, can the Council please explain who made the decision to make Ms Reed redundant, on what grounds the decision was made, and how that decision was in the public’s best interest?

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Rowson

Freedom of Information,

Dear Mr Rowson,

 

I am writing to acknowledge your request for a review of Freedom of
Information request FR7779 dated 19/12/2017.

 

Your request has been logged under the reference number R7779 and passed
to our Reviewing Officer, Simon Deacon.

 

If you have any queries about this email, please contact us quoting the
reference in any future communications.

 

You should expect a further response within 20 working days.

 

Tracey Gilkes
FOI / DP Admin
Northamptonshire County Council
Business Intelligence and Project Management
ONE Angel Square
Angel Street
Northampton
NN1 1ED

t : 01604 368360
e: [email address]
     [email address]

 

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