Procurement policy should be government priority
Plaid Cymru has expressed its concern at Welsh Government proposals to issue two large regional tenders in Wales for the delivery of on-farm Bovine TB testing.
Currently the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) co-ordinates and administers a system where local veterinary practices are employed to test herds in their areas.
Shadow Agriculture Minister, Llyr Gruffydd AM, said:
“This is yet another example of Welsh businesses – veterinary practices in this case – being undermined by the introduction of very large regional contracts for a service that is provided locally.
“Issuing tenders to deliver bTB testing in north and in south Wales will only benefit large companies who will either bring in their own veterinarians to deliver the tests or take their cut and hire local vets at a reduced rate.
“This runs contrary to everything the Welsh Government tells us about how public procurement should be made accessible to Welsh SME’s and Plaid Cymru expects them to practice what they preach.”
The budget available for the proposed tender is understood to be equivalent to the 2011-12 expenditure. Funding both delivery partners and local sub-contractors from this budget will therefore mean less funding for those administering the tests.
Llyr Gruffydd AM added:
“We have already seen how such an approach can have an adverse effect when the Food Standards Agency tendered for the Meat Hygiene Service. The work was taken from local practices to bigger national companies who imported their own practitioners to deliver the work on the ground.
“A similar outcome this time would have a huge effect on veterinary practices in Wales – some of whom say that TB testing can account for 20-40% of their turnover.
“Plaid Cymru believes that the local vets are best placed to deliver this service across Wales. They already have a working relationship and are trusted by farmers who would much prefer to use their own vet than someone else. Work by the British Cattle Veterinary Association also showed that around 90% of vets are conducting passive surveillance and other work whilst TB testing on farms. Losing this informal means of stock inspection could undermine the early detection of other diseases.
“Vets also provide additional value in their advice to farmers on issues such as animal health and biosecurity. A local presence can also ensure a lower carbon footprint and that services are more likely to be available through the medium of Welsh.
“If this service is taken away from veterinary practices in Wales, or if the income derived from this work is greatly reduced, the resulting loss of staff could force rural practices to amalgamate, leading to fewer vets further away from their clients.
“The Welsh Government needs to rethink its approach because getting this wrong could significantly damage the provision of veterinary services in rural areas in Wales - which could well prove more costly in the long term.”