To tender or not to tender – new council row
By RYAN TAYLOR
A row has broken out over whether the council should have commissioned legal firm Dundas and Wilson to carry out a £50,000 review of the relationship between the SIC and Shetland Charitable Trust.
The decision by last week’s Full Council was criticised by councillor Jonathan Wills, who says other legal firms should have been allowed to throw their hats into the ring to tender for the work.
He said the work does not need to be done anyway, because the same firm was awarded a £100,000 contract two years ago to carry out much the same task.
However head of the SIC’s legal and administration service Jan Riise said councillors accepted a report in the debating chamber recommending the work should go to Dundas and Wilson.
He said the experience Dundas and Wilson has with the charitable trust would put it at a distinct advantage over other firms.
However Dr Wills said the £50,000 work went against the council’s own guidelines. “The council has resolved to spend £50,000 plus VAT and disbursements – whatever they are – on Dundas and Wilson.
“My understanding of the rules is that if you are commissioning work costing £50,000 or more then you have to put it out to tender. I also understand we gave the same company well over £100,000 for similar work on the same subject, so what’s going on here?”
However Mr Riise said there were often good reasons for not putting work out to tender. He added the council will often forego the tendering process if it is deemed sensible at the time and under specific circumstances.
“A decision would have to be made on whether they felt pursuing an alternative would reap any savings. Sometimes it is because there is a need to proceed quickly, but I don’t think it was about pace that Dundas and Wilson were selected this time.
“The issue in the chamber was the amount of knowledge on the subject Dundas and Wilson already have. My argument would be if you are trying to bring another firm of solicitors up to that speed they will have to make fees for everything they do.
“Jonathan Wills is the first to complain our reports are too lengthy. What we could have done is listed our standing orders that related to tendering or not tendering, but that would not have added to the report, and in the interest of brevity we left it out.”
However chairman of the charitable trust Bill Manson said the charity experts who made Dundas and Wilson the ideal choice for the council had moved to form trust lawyers Turcan & Connell.
“When Dundas and Wilson came to do work for the council two years ago they didn’t have any records to work from, because the records had gone to Turcan & Connell along with the staff who went there.”