Solar Photovoltaic Agreement - Report by the Director of Communities, Housing and Infrastructure
With reference to article 15 of the minute of its meeting of 27 June 2016, the Committee had before it a report by the Director of Communities, Housing and Infrastructure which presented the circumstances relating to the solar panel incident specifically around the financial implications and total loss to the Council.
The report recommended:
That the Committee -
(a) note the circumstances leading to the payment of £275,000 to Our Generation Solar in 2015; and
(b) to request that a future report be submitted to the Finance, Policy and Resources Committee with an action plan to mitigate any further contractual payments towards loss of income to Our Generation Solar.
Councillors sought clarification on various matters in relation to the contract and financial loss to the Council. Specific questions related to why reports to the Finance, Policy and Resources Committee in April 2011 and October 2012 did not highlight the risks to the Council in terms of payment of loss of income generated from the solar panels if they were switched off and around the procurement process and the information that was available at the time of the decision being made to award the contract. Additional questions were asked relating to the health and safety concerns relating to the panel installations and whether the documentation relating to the process and procurement was comprehensive.
Mr Booth advised that the payment for the loss of income was in relation to the decision to switch off all of the solar panels and not just those that were faulty to give assurance to the Council that the installations were fitted correctly. He further advised that the contractor was selected following a tender process wherein the bidders had to submit method statements which included a risk register.
Ms Buchanan advised the Committee that the nature of some of the discussion was straying into matters that should be heard in confidence, specifically around the contract, an outstanding contractual payment and that further discussions on the detail of the contract might have an impact on any future negotiations.
The Convener requested that Internal Audit undertake an audit to ascertain where the responsibilities and accountability sat in relation to the Solar Photovoltaic Agreement and whether there was the appropriate level of reporting the risks to members before and during the contract period and that in order to have as much detail discussed around the contract and financial risks that detailed questions be presented and discussed in private session.
At this juncture, Councillor Young moved as a procedural motion:-
that the Committee continue all further discussions on the item in public.
On a division, there voted:- for the procedural motion (9) – Councillors Cooney, Donnelly, Graham, Grant, Lawrence, Malik, Jean Morrison, Taylor and Young; against the procedural motion (8) - Convener; the Vice Convener; and Councillors Cameron, Dickson, Jackie Dunbar, Grieg, Nicoll and Townson.
The Committee resolved:-
to adopt the procedural motion.
Further questions were raised relating to the current contract and whether further payments would be made if a similar situation arose in the future, wherein Mr Booth advised that the current situation was that 40% of the panels were switched off due to a variety of reasons including refurbishment works to buildings and health and safety concerns in some areas and that any payments would be made under the same terms of the contract.
The Committee resolved:-
(i) in response to various concerns raised by members relating to the contract and decision making process, to request the Internal Auditor to undertake an audit to ascertain where the responsibilities and accountability sat in relation to the Solar Photovoltaic Agreement and whether there was the appropriate level of reporting the risks to members before and during the contract period; and
(ii) to otherwise approve the recommendations contained within the report.