Media release - Procurement of vehicles by the Irish Coast Guard

22 October 2021

A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the procurement of vehicles by the Irish Coast Guard has been presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas today. 

In November 2015, the Department of Transport (the Department) signed a contract for the supply and fit out of vehicles for cliff rescue teams.  Subsequently, the Department acquired 18 vehicles between 2016 and 2020, and incurred expenditure of almost €1.4 million on supply and fit-out of the vehicles. The average all-in cost was around €76,500 per vehicle.

Specification of requirements

The examination found that there was poor specification of the requirement for the vehicles in advance of the procurement.  The Coast Guard did not set out why the vehicles were needed operationally; the number of vehicles it needed; or the vehicle type and functionality required.  There was no evidence that the Coast Guard sought the views of the expected users of the vehicles (i.e. volunteer members of the cliff rescue teams) in advance of contracting for the supply of the new vehicles.  The request for tenders published by the Department did not specify a required vehicle carrying capacity (payload), or indicate weight, dimensions or nature of the equipment to be carried. 

Tendering for the vehicles

Because of the complex legal and technical framework within which public procurement occurs, comprehensive and accurate record keeping is essential.  The examination found major gaps in the Department’s records of the tendering process for the vehicles, and particularly in relation to the evaluation of bids.

When the tender was advertised, the estimated value of the contract was stated publicly at €160,000. The understatement of the contract value may have discouraged prospective tenderers and served to limit the extent of competition for the business.

Tenders were received from two firms. The records that have been made available for this examination indicate that there were clear and substantial deficiencies in the tender evaluation carried out. As a result, there is no reasonable basis to conclude that the Department conducted a fair and impartial procurement process for the vehicles.

Supply and delivery of vehicles

The examination found that the Coast Guard contracted to purchase a higher-cost vehicle than the vehicle that had been selected at the tender evaluation stage.  Although this vehicle was longer, it did not offer any additional payload capacity.  The basis for the decision to buy vehicles that were different from those tendered was not properly documented.

A pilot/prototype vehicle was trialled at a Coast Guard unit.  A report completed in November 2016 on the performance of the vehicle expressed concerns around the payload capacity of the vehicles purchased.  Because of the weight constraint the Coast Guard in consultation with the supplier decided to increase the payload capacity of the vehicles referred to as uprating.  The Department has been unable to provide details of the costs incurred in relation to uprating the vehicles.  

Deployment of vehicles purchased

As of May 2021, 17 of the 18 vehicles purchased are assigned to units around the coast and are being used as emergency response vehicles. The remaining vehicle is located at the Coast Guard’s headquarters.

Improvements in procurement processes

A number of changes to the Department’s procurement procedures are required, in particular, in relation to strategic planning for equipment requirements and the enhancement of the Department’s processes and procedures governing the management of procurement and the conduct of individual tendering exercises.

This report makes a number of recommendations in that regard, all of which have been accepted by the Department.

 

Notes for Editors:

The Comptroller and Auditor General is an independent constitutional officer with responsibility for the audit of public funds. He reports to Dáil Éireann.

The report was signed by the Comptroller and Auditor General on 14 July 2021 and sent to the Minister for Transport on 23 July 2021.  Under section 11 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993, the Minister is required to present the report to Dáil Éireann within three months of the date on which the report was submitted to him.

Click here to read the full text of the report .

Enquiries about the report should be directed to Paula O'Connor at (01) 863 8665 or pressrelease@audit.gov.ie