Sunday 25 September 2016

Lucrative State contracts scrapped in tendering row

Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30

Three tender processes for contracts worth millions of euros for translation services in the justice system have been cancelled in the past 13 months following complaints by a bidder. Stock picture
Three tender processes for contracts worth millions of euros for translation services in the justice system have been cancelled in the past 13 months following complaints by a bidder. Stock picture

Three tender processes for contracts worth millions of euros for translation services in the justice system have been cancelled in the past 13 months following complaints by a bidder.

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The tenders, with a combined estimated value of between €7.5m and €9m, were scrapped following rows over the selection processes used.

One of the bidders alleged flaws in how the competitions were run, claiming it was not selected despite offering a cheaper service than rivals.

The contracts on offer were to provide interpretation or translations services for An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the HSE, the Immigration Service, the Legal Aid Board, Department of Social Protection, Department of Justice and the Prison Services.

However, three tender processes collapsed following challenges by Word Perfect Translation Services Ltd, a company run by Albanian-born businessman Jimmy Gashi with offices in Dublin and Cork.

In two instances, the company issued High Court proceedings.

Both the Office of Government Procurement (OGP), which ran two of the tenders, and An Garda Síochána, which ran the third, have denied any impropriety.

Correspondence seen by the Irish Independent shows the latest tender, to provide interpretation services for the Legal Aid Board and the Immigration Service, was cancelled on August 31.

This happened a day after Mr Gashi's company initiated High Court proceedings against the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform after it was an unsuccessful bidder.

Mr Gashi claims it was submitting the lowest bid and should have been selected.

A letter issued by Chief State Solicitor Eileen Creedon, acting for the OGP, confirmed the cancellation of the competition.

She said the reasons for the decision would be issued later and that the legal proceedings issued by Word Perfect were "premature" and should be withdrawn.

A previous request for tenders issued by the OGP, which would have involved translation services being awarded to a number of companies, was also scrapped in August last year after Word Perfect raised concerns over how it was conducted.

In a letter issued at the time, Ms Creedon said: "Our clients totally refute allegations accusing [them] of doing anything unlawful or applying award criteria which was not published in the request for tender."

She said the decision was taken "to avoid unnecessary costs and further delay with regard to the provision of the services required".

In 2015, Word Perfect took High Court proceedings against the Garda Commissioner, after the force awarded a contract for interpretation services to a number of rivals.

It failed to secure a number of injunctions sought as part of the proceedings.

However, the gardaí decided that November to cancel the tender competition, saying it would allow the OGP conduct a competition for the services instead.

An Garda Síochána's executive director of finance and services, Michael Culhane, said in a letter that the force had concluded public resources ought not be spent defending the tender process when OGP was conducting another tender.

Irish Independent

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