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Anger as An Post to spend €3m on uniforms in North

AN Post has joined the exodus of shoppers travelling to the North for bargains by ordering a four-year supply of uniforms from a Derry clothing company.

The public body estimates that it will spend around €3m over the next four years on uniforms including boots, weather gear etc, and Hunter Apparel Solutions from Derry, will supply a portion of these.

A spokesperson for An Post insisted that the Northern Irish company was chosen by An Post because of its "extensive experience in providing uniforms for state companies", despite the fact that 14 Irish companies applied for the contract.

He explained: "An Post issued a tender competition in line with EU regulations and responses were received from companies from Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and England. The responses were evaluated according to the criteria published within the tender document, including previous experience, turnaround time, quality of materials and previous experience," he added.

An Post will require around 5,000 uniforms for staff annually for the next four years, and the tender won by the Derry company will provide some of these.

Some 19 companies tendered in total, with three from Northern Ireland, 14 from Republic of Ireland and two from England.

The spokesperson insisted: "All companies who responded to the competition were considered under the evaluation criteria set out in the tender."

Meanwhile Richard Bruton, Fine Gael's finance spokesperson said that while he could not specifically comment on An Post's tender, public bodies should be doing everything in their power to ensure that small Irish businesses get a fair chance in the tendering process.

"Public bodies should make sure they don't make a contract too big, or squeeze out certain people. I think principles should apply to make sure that smaller businesses get a fair shout in the process."

He stressed: "When you pitch the size of the contract, you do not set out unreasonable requirements for those to tender so that it confines it to a small number of people."

Mr Bruton called for better access for small companies to the tendering process, so they can win tenders and create employment.

"Other countries are making sure that in the framing of the tenders as they are set out, that smaller companies can bid."

"If for example, they [companies advertising the tender notice] insist on a long history of projects, or bundle a lot of projects together in one, then it makes it difficult for smaller businesses."