Sunday 20 October 2019

Translation service brings legal action against Garda Commisioner's after interpreter contract awarded to rivals

High Court judge Mr Justice Brian McGovern
High Court judge Mr Justice Brian McGovern

A translation service has brought a legal challenge to the Garda Commissioner's decision to award a contract for the supply of language interpretation services to a number of rivals.

Gardai require interpreters when dealing with non-English speaking people and has used Word Perfect Translation Services since 2007 including under a Department of Justice and Law Reform framework agreement for such services.  

Word Perfect says earlier this year, following a tendering process, the Garda Commissioner awarded the contract for translation services to Forbidden City, trading as, Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin;  Language Training and Translating Ltd, t/a Context, Oranmore, Co Galway; and to Natalia Cotov, t/a Accord Translations, Oldtown, Co Dublin.

Word Perfect says this has been done in breach of EU public procurement regulations.

It also claims conflict of interest in Ms Cotov's Accord Translations getting the contract because she is married to, or is the civil partner of, a Garda Mick Byrne who is the son of former Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne.

Word Perfect says the current Commissioner failed to exclude Ms Cotov's company from the competition or, at a minimum, failed to ensure the alleged conflict or potential conflict was removed.   Alternatively,  there was a failure to explain how the conflict was removed.

Word Perfect is seeking orders under EU public procurement regulations that the award of the contract be set aside and/or permanently suspended.  It seeks that Word Perfect instead be appointed or alternatively a new tendering process should take place.

It says the contract is worth €5m over four years. It provides for face-to-face interpretation services in all garda divisions though not over-the-phone interpretation.

The case was admitted to the Commercial Court on Monday (April 13) by Mr Justice Brian McGovern, on consent between the parties.

Word Perfect says in awarding the contract to the rivals, the Commissioner failed to comply with EU regulations and general EU law including by failing to provide adequate reasons for the decision to select the preferred bidders.

It is also claimed there was a failure to treat all bidders equally and that Word Perfect was discriminated against.  The decision to award the contract to the rivals was taken in breach of Word Perfect's legitimate expectation, it says.

In affidavits, Word Perfect's chief operation officer, Agim (Jimmy) Gashi, says there were a number of serious flaws in the tender process.

He also says  the Department of Justice framework, under which the service was previously provided, was a very competitive way of procuring services and ensured the best available price is obtained for the State.

This is in contrast to the way the Garda Commissioner is currently procuring services which does not involve a competitive process and results in the payment of "over-inflated and historic prices", he says.

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