Contracts, Medals and Flowers

Legal Aid procurement rounds have been going on for years. They have never been hassle free though the most recent Civil round and the “dual contract” Crime debacle of 2015 do stand out as particularly chaotic. Fortunatley we got all our charges safely home last week to great relief.

There have, therefore been any number of occasions where “lessons could have been learned” hence it is difficult to find this appraisal, from the LAA CEO, any more convincing this time round.

Rather there is a glaring need for a more fundamental review. We have said many times, give anyone daft enough to want one a Legal Aid contract, at anytime, plus a medal and a bunch of flowers; it is a crumbling system, of byzantine complexity, rewarded at increasingly break-even levels of remuneration. Moreover the micro management of these contracts, which feature punitive measures for even the most minor act of human error, make them treacherous. (Oh for such oversight of large public sector contract run by the likes of G4S). The latter falls into very stark relief when compared to the LAAs own, routine operational failures.

All the fundamental elements which inspired the current “procurement round” approach are now gone.

  • Bidding is not competitive and seems unlikely ever to be so – the penny seems finally to have dropped here in all but a limited number of phone advice services
  • The concept of new-matter-start distribution (rationing) is also over, save perhaps in Mental Health
  • The bid criteria will not “exclude” anyone SRA authorised and nor should they.

The dead hand these (supposedly) triennial events place on new blood entering the market is also a major disadvantage. The Criminal VHCC bid round is permanently open there seems no logical reason why this should not be the case for mainstream contracts. This might also assist manage the growing advice dessert problem which plagued this last event.

What is also clear from recent failures – dual contracts, housing court duty scheme and the twice reopened 2018 civil round is that the LAA consistently get it wrong, either in law or operationally, or both. This highly concentrated effort, seemingly conducted with insufficient human resources, against particularly tight and unnecessary verification requirements, inevitably failed. For sure some of the errors this time out were on the part of bidders but that is miniscule in the scheme of things and manageable against a less concentrated and fraught timescale.

The only way to make sure this “does not happen again” seems obvious – stop awarding Legal aid contract in this way, mint the medals and ring the florist.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn
About Author: SP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *