Sunday 23 July 2017

Row over Aviation Authority's €300,000 office revamp

John Drennan

John Drennan

A dispute has broken out between the embattled Irish Aviation Authority and an office furniture supplier over the refurbishment of the authority's new offices on D'Olier Street in Dublin.

In a recent address, the CEO of the IAA, Eamonn Brennan, said the Irish aviation industry was "experiencing the most challenging and difficult conditions in the history of aviation''.

However, documents seen by the Sunday Independent reveal that this has not sparked any outbreak of fiscal rectitude when it comes to the fittings and furnishings of the authority's new offices.

Instead, when it came to the tendering process, the authority is believed to have chosen a price that was significantly higher than a comparable bid from the Irish furnishing company Farrell Brothers.

Responding to its failure to secure the contract, the company, which employs 100 workers, claimed that "we understand Farrell are €100,000 cheaper than the preferred supplier whilst meeting all your specifications''.

They added that "given the prevailing economic conditions, we are fighting very hard for any business and this was reflected in the aggressive level of discount we applied to your project''.

In a separate internal communication, a senior company figure claimed that their tender had been 30 per cent less than that of the preferred bidder and that another company had failed to secure the €300,000 job "despite the winning contract being 25 per cent dearer overall''.

The communication included a stinging attack on the IAA as the figure claimed "over €100,000 is being wasted by a semi-state body on imported products which could be sourced in Ireland and would support our local economy''.

It is believed that, in contrast, the winning company currently employs only two people in Ireland.

The email from the losing contractor adds: "If I was given the task of sourcing a product for my employer, received five quotations, eliminated the cheapest ones then viewed the two remaining ones and bought the most expensive one, I would be fired."

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, the Fine Gael transport spokesperson Fergus O'Dowd said: "It is a disgrace that in a scenario where an indigenous Irish company actually puts in the lowest tender they are not awarded the contract. In these straitened times we need value for money rather than comfort chairs for bureaucrats.

"Stories such as this suggest it is time our disappeared Minister for Transport instituted a significant review into the procurement practices for semi-state companies.''

However, a spokesperson for the IAA said the authority had engaged in a "stringent, transparent and objective tender process'' which had been endorsed by "external legal advisers''.

The spokesperson also said that "the quoted price differential was incorrect'' but added that some of the defeated tenders were cheaper than that of the successful company.

Sunday Independent

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