School contract decision puts Sandwell Council at “financial and reputational risk”

Sandwell Council House, Freeth Street, Oldbury.

Serious questions have been raised about procurement processes at Sandwell Council after the companies bidding for the four-year contract were reduced to two led by former city councilor Azeem Hafeez.

It has since emerged that drivers at one of the companies, North Birmingham Travel, failed DBS checks, leading Birmingham City Council to terminate its contract with the company, further embarrassing Sandwell Council.

Tory West Bromwich East MP Nicola Richards asked how “city councilors were allowed to draft these proposals and furthermore they were allowed to go until cabinet approval before being considered correctly”.

Sandwell Tories have demanded to see details of an initial review of the process, which found “no initial evidence of financial wrongdoing, impropriety or non-compliance with procurement and procedural rules. contract”.

They accused the council of a number of breaches of school transport contracts affecting more than 600 SEND children in the district, including lack of oversight, unfair prejudices against small businesses and lack of transparency and demanded why other companies were taken out of the process in favor of North Birmingham Travel and County Cars.

Conservative advisers said a large and expensive contract handed over to two companies run by the same person was unprecedented.

Council chief Rajbir Singh has promised a full investigation into how the companies were selected.

Mr Hafeez is the son of former deputy chief Mahboob Hussain, and both were named in an explosive 2016 report on the council’s land deals. He denied any wrongdoing.

Councilor Jay Anandou, deputy leader of the Sandwell Conservatives, said, “I am concerned about the council’s irresponsible decision making on this school bus contract. The school transportation service has consistently exceeded its budget and is now jeopardizing the transportation of more than 600 of our most vulnerable young people.

‘The findings of this report released today recognize that, while safeguards are needed, the council acted unreasonably in failing to consider a proposal to award £ 22million of the money of the taxpayers of companies owned by Mr. Hafeez.

“By omitting” known “conflicts of interest, displaying weak controls and implementing a high-risk delivery model, the board has failed its schools, parents and our most vulnerable young residents.

“The board refuses to assess the reputational damage associated with their handling of this contract and the internal investigation that followed. I therefore encourage the head of the board to publish the findings of his internal review and an impartial and independent external audit. “

Sandwell’s board has been contacted for comment.