Saturday, 31 August 2013

Wobbles on HS2 business case

It is expected that tomorrow George Osborne will embark on a
different journey planner to justify HS2. The core business justification is expected to shift from reduced travel time to capacity and regeneration.

Set this against the backdrop of MPs recent confidence of having their collective voices heard over military intervention in Syria and you may say this shift of emphasis is very brave - it could actually be stoking the fire for those against the whole project.

I have discussed HS2 many times but it has struck me, from early on, that there is a need to get the basics right in communicating HS2 benefits. I'm not so sure that a good communications strategy for a procurement of this size is to be unclear what the key benefits are.

From a procurement perspective, the key question around HS2, and any other major spend, should be 'what is the problem we are trying to solve?' The answer to that question should then lead to options being generated to solve the problem. Only then can the options be appraised. If the problem to be solved is capacity and regeneration it is highly likely that you would generate different solutions than if the problem to be solved is shifting people and things faster throughout the country.

If HS2 is to get on the right track, my suggestion is that we need to build consensus on what is the problem which needs to be solved - it is a mistake to start from the position of saying "HS2 is the solution, now what is the problem?".

Friday, 30 August 2013

Can procurement learn from the vote on Syria intervention

I'm not going to discuss whether or not I agree with the idea of military intervention in Syria, but yesterday's Commons vote was clearly a setback for some. It was also something of a triumph for what the UK believes is worth fighting for, namely, that democracy and the voice of the people.

We heard of lessons learnt from the past - which must be a good thing. We've heard commentators declare that the vote is also a vote on the PM's judgement and that confidence in that will be irreparably damaged. Sadly, there was also a 'bad loser' syndrome, obvious after the vote, with some of those who failed to win over hearts, minds and votes denying the value of our treasured democracy and instead railed about the international implications. While Cameron said he "got it" the post-debate debate may have made us wonder which particular part of the message our leaders actual did get. However, I think there are some lessons from last night which are relevant to CPOs, particularly when they want to sell a new procurement strategy:

  1. Make every effort to learn from the lessons of the past - what's gone wrong is unlikely to have been forgotten and the legacy needs to be addressed before you can go forward;
  2. Regardless of your academic and professional pedigree, you need humility and excellent communications to bring key stakeholders to a position of accepting your strategy if it is to be adopted and implemented;
  3. You need to bring people with you and be seen to really, really, really listen to their fears and concerns - that means being seen to have taken those concerns on board and reducing, if not removing, their fears;
  4. Remember that key stakeholders are influenced by their key stakeholders too, for example, the PM appeared to view winning MPs voted as critical, but the MPs may well have viewed their own constituents voices more precious and recognised the problems they would have selling the strategy on doorsteps; 
  5. Recognise that losing credibility in your judgement will have long-term adverse impacts on virtually every piece of advice you subsequently give; 
  6. It is far more important to be viewed as having the good judgement to rip up a proposed strategy which lacks stakeholder ownership than to be so precious about it that your credibility is lost;
  7. Forcing through an unpalatable strategy is 'no win' as you can never predict with certainty the future and those you were against the strategy, with the benefit of hindsight, can always say, "but if only ...";
  8. Don't create unnecessary deadlines for decision-making - if you try to force a deadline on people sometimes it's easier for them to just vote for 'no change';
  9. If you can't sell a strategy it was unlikely you were ever going to successfully implement it;
  10. If you were unsuccessful in selling a strategy there's little since in saying "but I still know best'.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A sad reflection on social care procurement

Last night's Newsnight didn't do any favours for public procurement and particularly those responsible for social services.

In summary, the report highlighted that some organisations, contracted to provide home care, only pay staff for the specific time the careworkers are in the users home (no travelling time getting between users locations is paid for) and, as a result, the carers, considering all their actual working time, are paid below the minimum wage.

For quite some time it has been recognised that it makes good sense to keep those who need care in their own homes as long as is safe - it improves their quality of life and reduces the national costs of placing users in care homes. That being the case, the aim should be to ensure good quality home care provision which also means paying for appropriate quality staff.

We have discussed some of the implications of when care provision goes wrong in the past.

Bad as that is, the real disappointment was in the interview with the social services (ADSS) spokesperson. Her analysis was that bidders could choose what price to bid at and the conditions of employment. If that was actually her justification it is seriously flawed. Those procuring social care need to recognise the risks of contracting at rates which are unsustainable and cannot deliver the level of service required. There needs to be much more due diligence.

All together the Newsnight report was not good for those who procure social care, but worse it was not good for those who are dependent on that care if 'lowest price' regardless is the strategy now being pursued.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lean or anorexic procurement

If you cast your mind back to 1993 you may recall the seminal book by Richard Lamming on Lean Supply. It wasn't actually called Lean Supply but 'Beyond Partnership'.  That was closely followed by Peter Hines' 'Creating World Class Suppliers'. Many other discussions at the time were indicative of a paradigm shift in procurement thinking. These were more than conceptual ideas, they were based on the hard evidence of what worked. The key change was a recognition that 'adversarial' relationships were not always appropriate, that while there was plenty of talk of partnership, there was a need to go 'beyond partnership' and adopt 'lean'. You may well ask which procurements would be most appropriate for 'a lean strategy' - well, in general terms, those procurements which are strategic.

Fast forward 20 years and we hear the rhetoric of 'lean sourcing' within UK government as the panacea to all woes. Yet have they really understood what 'lean' means. Lean is more than taking costs out of the system and drawing closer so that innovation can flourish. It also requires an entirely different approach to buyer/supplier relationships and contract management.

We have the theory and gospel of 'lean' in government procurement and we can set that alongside the practice, for example, the transporting of prisoners and tagging services. Let's consider Serco, who would have been assumed were a strategic partner of the government but now appear to have fallen from favour on both those contracts - the MoJ have called in the police to investigate claims of fraud in prisoner escorting and there are parallel claims of overcharging for tagging 

This does not exemplify lean on either side of the dyadic. The notion of calling in the police to investigate fraud, claims of overcharging and even allegations of some questionable contract management are an anathema to lean.

It would be possible just to throw stones at Serco. It would also be possible to throw stones at MoJ. Both those approaches may bring short-term solace for one party but wouldn't really help public procurement as we approach the economic recovery. However, we could consider this an opportunity to adopt a more strategic approach and find out what went wrong in melting pot of the theory and rhetoric of lean, the current cost reduction focus and the day-to-day breakdown of contract confidence. Either way we need to revisit the implementation of lean within the UK public sector during a time of 'bust' as opposed to a time of plenty. 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

What does capping HS2 spend mean?

There's a peculiar paradox with HS2 - while the proposed costs just keep on taking from the public purse, for a blogger the whole saga just keeps giving.

I first highlighted problems in the approach away back in January and there's been a steady stream coming down the track since then. We also had the high profile reporting of the Institute of Economic Affairs expectation that the real cost is likely to be £80bn, even though Steve Ashcroft had blogged to that effect early in July. This week there appears to have been confusion among key stakeholders what the budget comprises: the Transport Secretary says £42.6bn, the Chief Executive charged with the implementation says there's an extra £7.5bn for rolling stock, and the Treasury are reported to be working on a figure of £70bn.

Now we have learnt, amid nervousness in the Labour ranks, the Shadow Transport Secretary wants to cap the spend at £50bn. What does that mean and what are the implications?

  1. There needs to be clarity what the budget is supposed to cover. While there is clearly confusion already regarding the budget, if Labour propose to cap at £50bn, then what is counted within the £50bn needs to be made clear, otherwise if they come into government, they risk being castigated when the first pound over £50bn is paid.
  2. What is the agreed categorisation and split between capital/revenue costs? If that isn't clear there is a danger of reallocation to mask overspend.
  3. Are the consequential costs of expert opinions, compensation to those adversely impacted, the costs of legal challenges, etc., also to be met from the £50bn allocation?
  4. What are the likely consequences of spending £50bn and then saying 'no more'? Will £50bn be viewed as sunk/wasted?
  5. If the budget is to be capped at £50bn, what is the most appropriate way to sequence the investment to ensure, if the plug is pulled, that the maximum benefit can be achieved from the £50bn spent and how will that scrutiny be provided?
It is quite easy to make a statement of capping expenditure but I fear this could come back to haunt the Shadow Transport Secretary.

My own personal prediction is that we have not heard the last of HS2 procurement, by a long shot.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Make 'em laugh 'cause shortlisting is no joke

Saturday will see the announcement of who wins the Foster's Comedy Awards. Thursday's Times carried a brief story on the shortlisting for Foster's Comedy Awards which I'm sure brings a smile to the faces of many in the procurement world - the shortlist is normally restricted to five or six, but this year the judges ended up with seven. The judges had two rounds of voting and six hours of arguing before deciding the shortlist should be longer.

Like all good procurement evaluations the method was set out in advance and communicated but it does not appear to be as robust as you would expect in a procurement. How do they protect against claims that someone is dropped in the early stages just to make it easy for a judge's personal interest in another competing joker and giving them a clearer run? Of course comedy is in the ear of the beholder - some of those shortlisted would not bring much of a smile to my face. So it must be very hard to bring some sort of objectivity to the gruelling task of listening to non-stop funnies for three weeks.

I don't get the impression there was any form of weighting and scoring. Nor does there appear to be any numerical restriction on the number who make the shortlist. Convention and tradition restrict the shortlist to five or six, but this year that was increased to seven. Is that a good thing? Well in the Comedy Awards, I suspect just being shortlisted brings dividends and increased business. In procurement, increasing those on the shortlist brings additional costs to both sides.

On the plus side of the Comedy Awards, every eligible contender is guaranteed their day in the footlights with at least one of the judges evaluating their performance - that's a lot better than some procurement shortlisting I have been aware of where submissions have been dismissed without even being read.

When the winner is duly announced there may well be some critique in the culture world, but it is unlikely to end up in a costly court case. However, the judges clearly didn't find shortlisting as easy as they would have hoped. Six hours of arguing - can you honestly recall that level of debate in any procurement shortlisting discussion?

It's hard shortlisting potential service providers, as the Foster's judges will have discovered. It does strike me that procurement professionals need to consider how others, beyond the profession, manage shortlisting and evaluation - I'm not joking, we may pick up something useful.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Supply Wars: Spain v Gibraltar

I've decided to return to the theme of Supply Wars but from a different tack. It's now a fairly daily occurrence hearing news of the diplomatic abbess between Spain and Gibraltar. Today's news was slightly different in that we are now seeing public procurement becoming one of the chess pieces.

In a nutshell, Gibraltar had ordered 10,000 tonnes of sand from a Dutch company but less than 3,000 tonnes has been received. The Spanish have intervened and halted the supply in response to a claim from an environmental group that the sand being supplied is from a protected area.

Gibraltar claim they have taken every step to ensure that the sand has been legally extracted and that the Dutch provider says it has provided copies of the relevant licences. I have insufficient understanding of the specific procurement to comment on the efficacy of the procurement.

To me this has the hallmarks only of a first skirmish - an end of season shortage of wouldn't normally make the news. However, skirmishes generally fit within a bigger theatre and that's what should be the focus. Procurement has been demonstrated to be both political and tactical, my suggestion is that it also needs to be looked at more strategically.

I if were advising both countries I would suggest a mapping of the existing and anticipated trade using Kraljic's matrix. If I were advising Spain I would target, for supply chain disruption, those procurement's in the 'Bottleneck' quadrant. If I were the UK and Gibraltar, on the other hand, I would now start to put in place risk management strategies and alternative sources for those 'Bottleneck' categories. This isn;t protectionism, this is pragmatism.

Of course while I'm talking about strategic procurement at a state level, there is also a need for those in the UK and Gibraltar, who procurement from Spain and it's sympathisers, to also carry out a risk assessment and put in place mitigating plans. This could get very messy in the supply chain world.

ippc6 - International Public Procurement Conference 2014

It's some years since I last attended the International Public Procurement Conference. The conference only takes place every two years but sometimes attendance is cost prohibitive - particularly over the last few years when approvals for attendance have been hard to obtain. So selfishly I was pleased to learn that next year's conference will be hosted in Dublin.

To me, this type of conference, like IPSERA, are far better value for money in terms of learning than the more traditional commercial conferences. They provide a somewhat unique mix of academics and practitioners who want to understand what is really happening in procurement and perceived best practice, there is much more depth in the sessions and rarely 'selling'.

If you've been carrying out any research, the conferences are a great opportunity to share what you've found out and have constructive critique (you could of course consider submitting a copy of your potential paper for me if you would like to have it considered in the Procurement themed special edition of Public Money and Management). If you're a practitioner you have a platform for showcasing what you've been trying and gain the benefit of constructive suggestions. Of course delivering a paper isn't necessary - you can learn masses as a delegate. Personally I find the real benefit lies in the discussion which take place following the delivery of each paper.

As I said, it is a few years since I've been able to attend one of these conferences, however, based on my experience (which may be out of date), I think organisers can improve the effectiveness of the conferences if they:

  1. Post online the abstracts and programme in sufficient time for delegates to best plan their time;
  2. Give the option of soft and hard copies of papers to delegates;
  3. Provide access to conference papers well in advance of the conference so that delegates have the choice of reading and digesting the papers;
  4. Make wider use of Twitter as conversations and even posting questions which arise from pre-reading papers, prior to the conference;
  5. Provide an opportunity for remote participation, say through Google Hangouts and webinars;
  6. Make use of YouTube for the selected dissemination of some of the sessions.
I don't know whether or not I will be able to attend but at least we've a year's notice.

Good luck to Paul Davis and the conference organisers.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The New Digital Age - book review

There is absolutely no doubt that digital will reshape the way we live and work. So the subtitle of this book 'Reshaping, the future of people, nations and business', by two of the gurus of digital, was of immediate interest.

It is a very readable book and does provide a vision of the future. Yet, to me, it said little about how business would be reshaped - reshaping procurement doesn't feature at all. There is little which would justify the book being located on the 'business and management' shelves in a library or bookshop (even on line). It could be used as a stimulus for discussion along the lines of 'so how would this translate to the procurement world?' - sadly that answer is not found in this book.

Procurement does however get a very brief mention, specifically on p.205, but don't get excited - unfortunately the authors discuss the inflexibility of defence procurement and how users are adapting by 'flying below the procurement radar' and work-arounds. If that is the view of two influencers it is a sad reflection on strategic, agile procurement!

One thing did strike me was the narrow vision of our two friends - for example, they still view a world of nationality based on physical land boundaries. Why should that constraint of birth place, whether for individuals or companies remain in the future - in the future, could we not opt to have nationality based on some form of virtual affiliation, say something like the old EEC or Commonwealth with laws which dictate how those of that 'national' affiliation chose to trade and do business, why not? If such virtual nationalities were created you would have transformed the rules of trade and could opt to have trade with only 'virtual states' able to trade in their own currency, tariffs, licences, language, and laws.

However, if you want some more grounded ideas on how digital can reshape procurement now, I suggest you look beyond The New Digital Age , perhaps even my own white paper on how procurement strategy needs to address digital.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Supply Wars

Are we on the edge of a return to the dark days of the 70s when the UK was held hostage by trade unions, and a determined Prime Minister decided they would not be coerced, but instead apply political might, with the result that UK car manufacturing collapsed and UK jobs were lost?

This isn’t the workers strike of the 70’s but instead supply chain disruption.

While I am a Tata Group employee, I work in an entirely different part of the organisation and have no engagement whatsoever with JLRs procurement.  However, it does appear to me that JLR are unlikely to be held hostage to Unite and the DHL threat,

The gamble of the 70s was whether or not Thatcher would give way to unions. The gamble of today is at least two-fold.  JLR could drop DHL from its supply chain and find an alternative source, either in the short or long-term.  Tata, JLR’s owners, could also take a more political and strategic option, threatening to completely relocate their manufacturing beyond UK shores – there are no shortage of countries which would welcome that investment. If a relocation threat were made, would we see David Cameron and the coalition decide it is essential they intervene in the negotiations? DHL employee 1,800 on the JLR logistics, while JLR employee 24,000 and had pre-tax profits of £1.7bn. Then again, from the UK Government’s point of view, Tata Group are a major UK employer as owners of Tata Steel, Tetley Tea, etc..

The stakes are high in this supply chain game – it will be interesting to see, with the benefit of hindsight, the lessons learnt.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

On procurement of aircraft security

I am, by any definition, a frequent flyer and, like so many, one of the banes of my life is airport security. I am astounded by the lack of customer focus and also the delight some of the searchers appear to get through making travel more unpleasant.

Some months ago I was asked by the security at Liverpool to remove my shoes, I asked why, and she told me it was just because she wanted me too.

A few weeks later, I observed ladies with flip-flops being asked to remove them - once again it appeared to be, 'just because'. The same day I was asked to remove a watch just to satisfy the searcher - I have worn near enough the same watch for 25 years without having been asked to remove it. Nevertheless, with due deference I had to comply, then forgot the watch was in the tray, dropped it and broke it. Needless to say that was my fault as opposed to an over zealous searcher who appeared to be in the wrong job. I complained, gained some solace in that other searchers said they wouldn't have asked me to remove the watch, completed a complaint form, and I still await even an acknowledgement.

Last week every single person going through the alarm system of the queue I was in appeared to trigger the alarm. Common sense would suggest there was something wrong with the alarm system but that wasn't being addressed. The result longer queues and more frustrated travellers, some of whom, like me barely caught their flights.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Indian helicopter vision on the need for procurement procedural ownership

Some months ago I discussed some of the lessons from the plagued Indian helicopter procurement - it has now emerged that procurement procedures were not adhered to. To me it is one of the fundamentals of good procurement, even though it doesn't seem very strategic, that you have pragmatic procedures which demonstrate probity, gained stakeholder ownership during their development, are effectively communicated, and then performance managed. If you cannot get those basics right then it doesn't mater how strategic your aspirations are for strategic recognition, the foundations just are not right.

So why is procedural compliance such a problem? The Indian Helicopter procurement, Stoke City Council, Serious Fraud OfficeLancashire County Council, and the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland are just a few of the recent discussions where procurement procedural compliance appear to have been flawed. It is almost irrelevant whether fraud and corruption took place if you have not adhered to procedures - non-adherence to procedures will always leave you perceived as doing wrong.

My suggestion is that the core lessons here are check the procedures are fit for purpose, make sure they are understood, and then performance manage. If you don't you may be the next case study.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Welcome to the Hotel Oakwood - commissioned by MoJ and managed by G4S

The on-line promotional brochure for HMP Oakwood claims:
At HMP Oakwood we aim to inspire, motivate and guide prisoners to become the best they can be. We offer state of the art facilities, full time employment, programmes and access to physical health and wellbeing initiatives.
The 'TripAdvisor' version, published by the Independent Monitoring Boards, tells a slightly different story which is much more interesting to those of us who share an interest in all things procurement. Forget the fact that this is yet another 'could do better' report for G4S and the exemplary procurement of MoJ - let's just give them a break. Think of it as if you were asked to advise on the procurement of new hotel services.

Let's look at some of the issues which were found by the Independent Monitoring Board but recast as if they were written about a hotel as opposed to a prison:

  1. Should the first who have the pleasure of testing a new services be some of those who will be your more regular guests occupying the most expensive rooms?
  2. Would you think it was appropriate to deprive the first guests of essentials, such as toilet paper? 
  3. Do you think it would be acceptable to advertise free access to all parts of the hotel, including the Executive Lounge, and then say, "ah but not just yet"?
  4. Would you expect food to be prepared in a temporary kitchen?
  5. Would you find it acceptable that the design prohibited staff from being contactable throughout the whole hotel, particularly in the event of an emergency, and have to pay an additional £400k to have those basic communications?
  6. Would you expect guests to be satisfied with poor TV signal reception?
  7. Would you find it acceptable to only have a centrally controlled heating system which meant that it was impossible to control the temperature in different guest rooms?
  8. Would you expect guests to be happy with an off-site fitness suite?
  9. Would you find it acceptable to have no locks on either staff or guest toilets?
  10. Would you be happy if shower areas did not offer privacy?
  11. Would you find it acceptable for guests to easily access from other competitors offers which you wanted to prohibit access to (in the prison situation, drugs and mobile phones being passed over the fence)?
  12. Would you be happy if the hotel staff hadn't previous experience of working within a hotel environment?
If you were discussing the procurement of a new hotel, indeed a flagship new hotel, I suspect you would not consider that to be a good case study. How on earth did it go so badly wrong with HMP Oakwood? What procurement risk assessment was carried out and how were the risks managed? Something seems to have gone seriously wrong, or have I just missed the point?

Friday, 9 August 2013

Can public procurement harm society?

Yet again we hear claims that public procurement processes are having a detrimental impact on society. The problem appears to be a trend towards contracts as opposed to grants. It strikes me that there is a misunderstanding in the minds of some procurers that grants are perceived as bad, while contracts are perceived as good. That just isn't true, both are options and the procurement professional needs to be able to help funders in that option appraisal and select the right choice.

Julia Unwin’s ‘The Grant Making Tango’ probably provides the best guidance for procurers but there are other sources. To me it is a must read for any procurement professional in setting out the options appraisal for the procurement decision of Grant V Contract.

The guide basically refers to purchasing as ‘Shopping’ (what we prefer to call procurement and contracting) and then differentiates grants as being either ‘investing’ or ‘giving’.

You ‘give’ when you want to be associated with a good cause and don’t expect anything in return; a bit like the Christmas ideal. It may be that the ‘giving’ organisation will be more than satisfied if it is given credit in say the local theatre’s advertising as a sponsor.

‘Investing’ is different.  You invest when you want something to take place which wouldn’t otherwise take place.  For example, there are no providers in the market and you want to ensure some service provision takes place or alternatively you want to ‘market make’.  In such a situation you would expect there to be performance management in place to ensure the funder obtains the intended outcomes for the funder's investment - a form of contract management.

It is selecting the wrong option which is causing the harm, yet at the same time there is a need to help previous grant recipients navigate the change if contracts are now deemed most appropriate. 

Aside from this there are the commitments of the Compact (and in local government Local Compacts and the Small Business Friendly Concordat) which should be understood by procurers.

This isn't easy stuff but it is not complicated, nevertheless it causing trouble in the market and difficulties for those whose primary intention is to 'do good'? 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Do we need an Undercover Supply Manager

I'm sure you've caught at least a glimpse of those TV programmes where the boss goes undercover to find out what it is really like working in their firm. Wouldn't it be interesting if there was a buyer version, where the buyer goes undercover to find out what it is really like working in their suppliers firms?  A good start would be if those who award 'best of bred status' did the same. 

For example, it was only in May that Gartner crowned Apple king of the supply chain. At the time I was puzzled how, given Apple's supply chain problems, particularly with Foxconn, they could be positioned as the exemplar.    

Now we learn that Foxconn's peculiar style of human resource management does not appear to be isolated to China but is also being applied in the Czech Republic. The Sunday Times reported on the research of Andrijasevic and Saccheto. We learn of accommodation in which 80 workers share a dozen showers and two bathrooms, 12 hour shifts punctuated with only a 30 minute lunch break and two 15 minute breaks, excessively low pay and fines imposed for sitting down.

And one of Foxconn’s three Czech factories, in Kutna Hora, no longer makes products for Apple according to the reports. Why? Quite simply because Foxconn reacted to increased demands from their workers   - when the workers started getting together to demand better working conditions, the division was closed”.

Is it really appropriate for Apple, an exemplar, to put up with these working practices and such behavior in one of their key suppliers?

Our memories seem to trick us very quickly into forgetting too quickly the working conditions which led to the deaths in Bangladesh and how supply chain management can make a difference. Nobody is accusing Foxconn of putting its workers in the obvious danger we saw in that terrible Bangladesh factory collapse, but perhaps we need more 'walking in the shoes' of the factory workers if we really want to understand what it is like to be a supplier to some of our brand leaders. 

Previously published as a guest blog on Spendmatters, 16 July 2013 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Lessons in procurement from the Serious Fraud Office

I have discussed fraud and the need to put in place preventative measures quite a bit of late, so it seems appropriate to look at the example of the Serious Fraud Office for lessons. I hasten to add, I don’t necessarily mean lessons which should be copied, let’s just say, lessons.

A bit of context first. An inquiry was carried out by a senior civil servant into the practices of the SFO as a result of accusations, including that money had been wasted on management consultants. Like I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear that the allegations were denied. Indeed it was claimed no money was spent on management consultants.

Subsequently, it came to light that management consultancy expenditure, rather than £0, was actually £1m over six months! Worse, the senior civil servant leading the inquiry could find no documentation regarding the basis of the award of the consultancy contracts, no minutes of the meetings were the appointments were made, and one of those who supposed to have participated in the award decision denied attendance at the discussion.

How on earth can any organisation demonstrate good governance, a fair procurement process, and defend allegations of fraud against that background?

I suppose you could also ask:
  1. How could one of those involved in the procurement decision separately be awarded £1m without the relevant approvals?
  2. How could a £3m IT contract be renewed without permission?
  3. How could £100,000 be spent on travel and hotel costs to support someone working from home?
I think the only people who could answer those questions would be the Serious Fraud Office but perhaps it’s best not to follow their example.