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Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science

Volume 498: debated on Monday 26 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements have been put in place to ensure the fairness of the tendering process in circumstances where the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science is both advising his Department on the selection of bids and is itself one of the bidders. (295569)

The arrangements to ensure the fairness of the tendering process in circumstances where CEFAS is both involved in advising on the selection of bids and is itself one of the bidders is set out the governance document ‘Marine Environment Protection Fund (MEPF): Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund Delivery Partner on behalf of DEFRA: Who We Are and How We Operate’ published on the MALSF website at

http://www.alsf-mepf.org.uk/downloads/documents/mepf---how-we-operate.aspx

The Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund is delivered through the Marine Environment Protection Fund (MEPF) which is administered by CEFAS on behalf of DEFRA and reports to DEFRA though the Marine ALSF Steering Group. The Marine ALSF Steering Group oversees the direction of the fund, develops the commissioning strategy for research and dissemination activities and oversees delivery arrangements.

All funding decisions are made by the MEPF evaluation panel which undertakes the evaluation of tenders. The MEPF evaluation panel is chaired by DEFRA and comprises representation from eight organisations of which CEFAS is one, plus the Marine ALSF Science Co-ordinator who is appointed through an open competition. The MEPF provides the Secretariat function to the evaluation panel and any views and opinions of the Secretariat at the evaluation panel meetings are made as representing the MEPF as a delivery partner. The Secretariat has no decision-making powers or voting rights on the evaluation panel.

The MEPF panel's terms of reference govern the arrangements for ensuring fairness in the evaluation of bids in circumstances where an evaluation panel member is from the same organisation as a bidder. These arrangements involve:

1. All evaluation panels begin with a round-table declaration of any potential conflicts of interest. A two-tiered approach to managing potential conflicts is then followed:

a) Direct involvement—If a panel member is to be part of a project delivery team and/or has helped prepare the proposal, they are required to be absent from the room while the proposal is being discussed and evaluated.

b) Indirect involvement—If a panel member's company/organisation has submitted a proposal but the panel member had played no part whatsoever in its preparation nor was to be involved with the project delivery team, the panel member is required to be a non-voting member of the panel while considering the bid but may remain in the room while the proposal is being discussed and evaluated.

2. Any individual involved in project evaluation other than central Government staff members will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement to protect the intellectual property of project applicants. These agreements must also be in place for any member of staff who receives bids from the other distributing bodies during the liaison process.

To maintain impartiality and confidentiality, the MEPF delivery partner operates entirely separately from CEFAS' main corporate and delivery functions. Specifically:

MEPF services are provided by a dedicated team from the Programme Management Group of CEFAS devoted only to the provision of MEPF fund management services.

The MEPF is separate from the Science Delivery Divisions and the Commercial Group of CEFAS and MEPF staff are not involved in MEPF bid preparation or delivery.

CEFAS bidding teams and project leaders are not able to have sight of MEPF Managed Funds papers.

Electronic files are stored on local area, not shared contracts area, with restricted access to the ALSF_MEPF local areas. Paper files are locked away and stored separately away from central contracts file store.