County Hall chiefs have voted to break the law to sort out the “mess” left by the now-defunct One Connect Limited.
Two dozen suppliers’ contracts worth £13.4m expired last month without anyone noticing, members of Lancashire’s cabinet have been told in a shock report.
And a further 14 deals totalling £4.5m are on the verge of ending this year before the county council can complete the legal tendering process.
In desperation councillors have been forced to renew them en masse, even though the move could end court.
“The council would place itself at risk of a legal challenge to which it would struggle to mount a defence,” said the cabinet report.
Procurement of items from yoghurt to ready mix concrete was handed over to the controversial One Connect when it was set up as a partnership between the then Tory-led council and BT in 2011 with the aim of saving the authority £400m.
But the company was scrapped by the new Labour administration in January this year and is now at the centre of a police investigation.
Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of the council, said: “The report exposes a significant failure of the previous Conservative administration in its political management of the council’s procurement service.
“When I took responsibility for finance and procurement last year I quickly spotted a large number of contracts which were being extended on an ad hoc basis without going out to tender. This is against both the council’s own policy and the law
“We will now put in place a robust procurement policy to tackle this very serious problem and ensure that we deal with the mess that has been left behind both now and for the future.”