AN AUDITOR has rapped Croydon Council for "unfairness" in excluding several contractors from talks on the Waddon Ponds regeneration – even though they presented lower bids than the firm chosen.
Environmental consultants Ecosulis were contracted to restore and enhance the lake and ponds in late 2011 as part of the council's Parks to be Proud of Programme.
Before the contract was awarded, discussions were held with the company which resulted in their tender price being reduced from £103,425 to £99,950.
But when auditors from Deloitte examined the deal, they could find no evidence that the remaining contractors were also allowed to price the amendments, despite there being two lower tenders.
Their report, completed in June and obtained this week by the Advertiser under the Freedom of Information Act, said excluding companies from the negotiating process meant the council might not be able to "rebut any allegations of unfairness".
Deloitte identified the discrepancy as 'priority 1' (a major issue for the attention of senior management) and rated the overall project as having 'limited assurance' due to weaknesses in its controls.
It was, however, noted that failing to include the other bidders did not affect the outcome of the tender.
In its response to Deloitte's report, the council said it had sought clarification from Ecosulis after it included several items which were not in the design brief.
"It did not affect the overall selection of contractors who came in much cheaper, but their schemes proved either to be non-sustainable or had not followed the design brief," continued the response, adding: "Should the tender evaluation and selection process be challenged, we believe the council could adequately rebut any allegations of unfairness, providing the record of the decision-making is adequate."
The auditor found three bids had been lower than the winning bid (one 25 per cent less), with one only scoring one point less than Ecosulis on the design brief and specification assessment.
The Parks to be Proud of programme enabled the public to select nine green spaces in Croydon to share a windfall of £1.5 million.