Report highlights 'poor planning' at Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools

 National Auditor says direct orders should not serve as a safety net for poor planning and ineffective management in report on Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools


An Auditor General's report on the procurement process at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools identified a number of shortcomings, with audit concern centering upon instances of significantly higher estimates compared to the tender bids received, considerable changes in the scope of planned works, substantial extras and variations, and notable delays in the completion of works.

The NAO report - presented to the Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia today - focused on aspects relating to compliance to procurement legislation, inconsistencies in contract management, cost variations as well as delays in completion dates.

During 2012 and 2013, the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools (FTS) awarded 140 contracts, which in sum accounted for a contract value of €9.6 million. This review focused on a sample of 22 projects, which represented a total contract value of in excess of €1.4 million.

The deviation of compliant bids from the FTS estimate drew the National Audit Office’s (NAO) attention.

“Of particular interest were those cases featuring an estimate that was significantly higher than all compliant bids received, which was often indicative of the Foundation’s poor awareness of market rates,” the report said.

Another shortcoming identified related to the significant changes in project design, evidenced by the substantial changes with respect to the Bills of Quantities. The underlying implication of this concern was that the project had been poorly planned, which then necessitated changes during the implementation phase, although not necessarily resulting in cost overruns.

The auditor’s report also noted that delays were experienced in a considerable number of projects.

“In the case of delays arising out of FTS action, NAO considers this as indicative of poor planning and project management. On the other hand, NAO noted that delays caused by the various contractors were never followed up by the imposition of delay charges and penalties as contemplated in the contract,” the report concluded.

Moreover, the NAO said direct orders should be restricted to instances of genuine urgency and unforeseen circumstances and not serve as a safety net for poor planning and ineffective management.

“While certain direct orders reviewed satisfied these criteria, others clearly did not, as contracted works could have been anticipated, appropriately planned for and undertaken through open procurement methods.”