The LSC, aware that there is a lot of interest in the appeals process for the contract award decisions (mainly, of course, because there are a lot of organisations appealing), has become concerned about “some inaccurate and confusing press reports”.
The LSC has therefore made a statement to unclarify the situation, dated 12 August.
The statement follows in part – with interpolations in square brackets by me.
“A lot of providers have been contacting us about the family legal aid tender, following some inaccurate and confusing press reports.”
[But given the content that follows, it must also apply to the SWL tender.]
“We are aware of concerns over allocations in some areas, and we’ll continue to review the situation and take further action if necessary.”
[but apparently not action that would involve re-allocating awarded matter starts. So what sort of action?]
“However, we must emphasise that the tender process has not finished. In line with the process outlined in the Information for Applicants document, the next step is to carry out a verification exercise. This is aimed at ensuring providers can deliver on the new matter start numbers they have successfully bid for.”
[Call me picky, but would it not have made sense to schedule the verification exercise in before awarding contracts and matter starts. At the point when one assesses a bid, for instance.]
“We’re also currently considering appeals from applicants. This is separate from the verification exercise. The appeals process may or may not result in some unsuccessful applicants being given new matter starts. But if an organisation is successful on appeal, it won’t affect existing allocations to successful applicants, so long as those applicants have proved they can deliver the work they won.”
[So, that is one option on what a successful appeal might mean ruled out. Given the forensic intellect of NL readers, I’m sure you are ahead of me in working out that only two options are left. 1 – the LSC has held back a chunk of matter starts in anticipation of some successful appeals. Or 2 – the entire appeal process is effectively a sham, as even as a successful appeal would not result in a contract commensurate with the revised bid status. If the latter option is the case, that thunder you will hear is the sound of firms hammering at the door of the Administrative Court. If the first option is true, then crucially, how many matter starts have been held back? Are there enough for suitable contracts for successful appellants? And what will happen to any remnants? Can successful bidders take on the extra – assuming that they have proved they can deliver it?]
There we are. The helpful clarification raises more questions than it answers, but apparently means that:
- The LSC didn’t check if bidders could deliver what they bid for before awarding contracts, so is going to do it now, which may mean taking contract offers away again.
- Contract awards aren’t actually final, except that the LSC isn’t going to change matter starts awarded, (except where it is, maybe), and
- Appeals may or may not result in awards of matter starts, but these won’t be from the matter starts already awarded, instead coming from a mysterious stash of matter starts that the LSC may or may not have.
Excellent. That is much better than the inaccurate and confusing press reports.