Carillion inquiry blasts inaction over Crown rep roles

Aaron Morby 7 months ago
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Heads of the joint inquiry into the collapse of Carillion have slammed the Government for its failure to review the role of officials tasked with monitoring major public sector suppliers.

The inquiry previously concluded that Government’s Crown Representative system—”semi-professional and part-time”—had provided little warning of the risks in a key strategic supplier, and should be reviewed immediately.

After it emerged that there was no senior official overseeing the company for three months during a critical period last year, the inquiry called for beefed-up powers and more resources as a matter of urgency.

But the Cabinet Office has responded arguing that there is no need to review how it scrutinises suppliers through its crown representative system.

The Carillion committee chairs have written back calling on the Government urgently to tackle the central issue and get a grip on its suppliers to protect the interest of taxpayers and those who rely on these businesses.

In the letter, the chairs write: “There is no question that the current system of monitoring suppliers was not able to identify or prevent the precarious state of Carillion and its decline and collapse. It is astonishing that there has been no indication of any Government action to resolve this.

“Your letter acknowledges that an increased number of Crown Representatives would allow wider coverage of suppliers, but gives no commitment even to examine—as we recommended—whether the current level of resourcing should be increased…While we accept that there are limits to the information a Crown Representative may be able to access for any supplier, the relationship with Carillion and the surprise nature of its profit warning does call into question their value.”

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “This response perfectly illustrates the complacency that got us, the public purse and some key public contracts into this mess.

“The picture the Cabinet Secretary paints of our Crown Representatives is more Johnny English than James Bond, instilling little confidence in their ability or capacity to defend the public interest in the multi-billion pound world of Government outsourcing.”

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