Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from Anne Beynon, National Manager, Wales BT
I haven't forgotten our conversation and your request for me to send you some notes on my experience of Objective 1.
As it happens I was asked to speak at a recent seminar on Doing Business with the Assembly and much of what I had to say at that event seems relevant to your current WASC enquiry.
I am, therefore, sending you a copy hoping it will shed some light on matters. I haven't got the slides with me at home so I haven't included them but I don't think it makes a huge difference to the presentation (see Annex). If you want them I can always send them on.
I think that a key issue is the lack of experience of genuine public/private partnership which has created a "them and us" culture. Even when it is stated policy that joint working is a good thing there are ingrained habits that can prove to be a stumbling block. I can quote two specific examples.
First is when my colleague rang the DTI European Structural Funds help line to seek clarification on a procurement issue. The person who answered the phone told her that as BT was a private sector company he couldn't help her. When we questioned this at a senior level (I wrote to Nigel Sheinwald the UK's permanent representative at the EU) I was told that this should not have occurred and that the help line is available to all. Obviously the message hadn't got through to the front line troops.
The second occurred recently (just before Christmas) when Opportunity Wales sent two notices to be published in the OJEC. The Opportunity Wales people had been given advice and support by the WDA procurement team. The notices were dealt with at the OJEC office by two different officials. One decided that the notice he was dealing with was fine and it was published. The other decided that because it came from a private sector organisation it was invalid. He forgot to inform Opportunity Wales or the WDA of this decision. His decision was clearly incorrect as a private sector organisation (in this case a limited liability company) that is spending public money must go through OJEC. The notice has now been publisheda month late.
Of these two examples one was ignorance by the DTI, the other was ignorance at the OJEC. Neither was caused by the Assembly. The Assembly has been helping us to sort out these two organisations.
14 February 2002