Questions raised over major Welsh timber supply contract

17 March 2017

The decision-making process behind the award of a massive timber supply contract by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has been called into question by the country’s auditor general, according to the BBC.

The 10-year supply deal in question involves spruce and larch and was struck in 2014 between NRW and a Welsh sawmiller.

The total contract value was said to be £39m. Some of the timber – larch – was believed to be from forests where the P Ramorum tree disease was present.

Auditor general Huw Vaughan Thomas is referenced by the BBC as saying the deal was made without other companies being allowed to bid.

Because of this and the lack of market testing, the auditor is quoted as saying the contract should have been referred to the Welsh Government “because it was contentious and could have repercussions on the wider market”.

But it wasn’t and therefore the contract was “irregular”.

He is also quoted questioning whether the deal met EU state aid rules.

In a press statement made to TTJ, NRW said it was “disappointed” with the Wales Audit Office’s findings regarding aspects of some long-term sales contracts.

“We are disappointed that he has issued a qualified opinion on the grounds of regularity in relation to the award of several long-term sales contracts,” said NRW.

“We believe that there are more appropriate ways to deal with the issue.”

“Nevertheless, we have an action plan to learn the lessons from this to ensure even stronger governance arrangements in future,” added Kevin Ingram, executive director for finance and corporate services for NRW.

Several politicians have called on the Welsh Government to provide an explanation.