Freshwater's Steve Howell slams public bodies over credit agency role

The CEO of Freshwater has appealed to two public sector bodies over the role of credit agencies in their procurement process.

Made appeal: Steve Howell
Made appeal: Steve Howell

Steve Howell is contesting the decisions of the bodies, which he declined to name but criticised for a lack of transparency in the way they used ‘secret’ credit checks as part of their agency selection.

In one case, he claims to have discovered that the credit agency provided the client with the wrong information on Freshwater’s turnover.

‘The practice has become more commonplace in recent years, along with the rise of procurement,’ he said.

‘In using criteria from such agencies that are secret, you are falling foul of guidelines saying public sector criteria should be transparent. And while it is right that public bodies conduct financial checks, they must be proportionate to the size of the brief.’

Howell has complained to the PRCA that the public sector’s use of such bodies stifles small business and breaches transparency guidelines.

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said the matter was being considered, and called a reliance on credit score above everything else ‘sheer lunacy’.

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