Providers face further wait on tender outcome as GLA wrestles with queries

Providers awaiting the outcome of the Greater London Authority’s adult education budget tender will not be told the outcome for weeks, despite the list of winners being approved by the mayor over a month ago.

The delay, which has left many providers frustrated, has been blamed on a “large number of queries” raised by applicants. 

They were bidding for a share of the adult education budget being devolved to the GLA on August 1, 2019.

The authority’s annual budget will be £306 million, of which £130 million is being procured over four years.

The GLA launched the tender in October, with a submission deadline of December 21, and received 202 bids for the total amount of £811 million.

A list of winning providers was then “endorsed” by the authority’s adult education budget (AEB) board on April 10 and feedback to bidders was meant to be released on April 23, with a standstill period commencing April 24 to May 3.

But more than a month later and with just over two months to go until the devolution handover, providers have told FE Week they have yet to be informed whether they have secured an AEB procured contract.

Explaining the delay, a spokesperson for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, said: “Funding decisions have been slightly delayed due to the need to process a large number of queries raised by potential providers’ applications.

“Applicants will be advised if their bid has been successful during the next few weeks.”

By contrast, providers applying in the West Midlands Combined Authority tender for AEB funding have this week been made aware of the results.

The delays to the GLA’s procurement come despite plans for the authority to topslice £3 million from the AEB every year to cover administrators’ wages, as revealed by FE Week in May last year.

The mayor was warned in September that a team of 72 administrators may not be enough to handle the fund when devolution kicks in, with procurement being a key issue.

The delay to the GLA’s tender comes just weeks after the authority’s own risk register re-graded the devolution programme from green to amber for the first time.

Papers included in the agenda for a board meeting on April 10 predicted £950,000 of implementation funding would not be enough to cover all the implementation costs up to the end of July 2019, mainly due to rising system costs of GLA OPS – the Grant Management System – which is expected to handle the majority of AEB expenditure.

At the meeting, the board endorsed spending up to £650,000 from the implementation budget and the GLA reserves to develop GLA OPS, after it had already agreed in February to increase the spend on developing systems for the AEB programme from an average of £54,000 per month to £105,000 per month.

The GLA is one of seven English mayoral areas which are taking control of their areas’ AEB this year.

Devolution expert Dr Gareth Thomas told FE Week in October that while the authorities “may be able to complete the procurement and contracting” it was less certain that providers would “be able to adapt their delivery models and put appropriate partnership arrangements in place” in time.

This, he warned, may lead to “market instability”.