EA cancelled Thames enforcement contract due to underestimating its value

More information has been released by the Environment Agency (EA) about the reasons it terminated the contract with car parking company District Enforcement (DE) to enforce time limits on the EA’s own visitor moorings on the River Thames.

Following its termination of the contract on 30th July 2021, the EA carried out an internal review of its procurement process for the mooring enforcement contract in which it “identified that the procurement and its management had not been carried out to our highest standards”.

A Freedom of Information response revealed that although the EA refused to provide a copy of the internal review report on the grounds that this report was legal advice and therefore exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act, it did release additional correspondence that provided more information about why the contract was ended.

A complaint was made to the EA in mid-2021 that the EA had wrongly assessed the value of the contract and had therefore not carried out the procurement according to the procedure laid out in the Public Contract Regulations 2015, as it might have been required to if the contract had been given the correct valuation.

The EA valued the contract at £25,000 per year because that was the maximum budget that it could spend on Thames moorings enforcement. However, the complainant maintained that the value of the contract was much greater and could have been over the £189,330 threshold required to engage the formal procurement process required by the Public Contract Regulations 2015. Upon investigation, the EA found that when the profit-share in mooring fines and the management fee elements of the contract were taken into account, the value of the contract might well exceed the threshold. The Public Contract Regulations 2015 meant that the EA had to terminate the contract with DE because the contract had not been correctly valued and the correct procurement procedure may not have been followed.

It appears that the complainant may be a representative of a boating organisation. We should clarify that this particular complaint was not made by the NBTA. The NBTA’s complaint about the contract between the EA and DE was that DE had misrepresented its dealings with the NBTA and the Bargee Traveller community.

The NBTA is opposed to the enforcement of mooring time limits being carried out for profit. It is totally unacceptable that companies like DE and their shareholders are getting rich from the persecution and impoverishment of Bargee Travellers and other boaters.

Danylo Kurpil, a director of DE, was until January 2019 also a director of the now defunct organisation River Thames Alliance Ltd (RTA). A number of local authorities and other organisations with land on the Thames, some of whom were RTA members, contracted with DE to carry out mooring enforcement. The RTA was opposed to the interests of itinerant liveaboard boaters on the Thames; it believed that Bargee Travellers should live on permanent moorings off the main line of the waterway as a “solution to unlawful on-line residential moorings” and described our community as “the whole problem of itinerant moorers”.

Alice Mayne, the EA’s then Deputy Director Navigation and Commercial, responded to the complaint. The response was heavily redacted by the EA before releasing it. You can download it here 20211216 EA DE contract FoIA Response Redacted.

The Freedom of Information request is online here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/contract_ref_eamoorings2020_env6