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Air Corps Bid for Part of New Search and Rescue Contract Rejected as "Not Credible"

30th May 2022
The Air Corps had said it could provide cover for the east and southeast coasts for €232 million over ten years, €378 million cheaper than a commercial provider.
The Air Corps had said it could provide cover for the east and southeast coasts for €232 million over ten years, €378 million cheaper than a commercial provider

The Air Corps bid to deliver a search and rescue service for the eastern seaboard at less than half the cost of an international aviation firm was rejected by senior government officials as not credible, according to tender documentation.

As The Sunday Times reports, the Department of Transport rejected the Air Corps bid as consultants KPMG found that splitting the new search and rescue contract in two would increase overall costs.

The Air Corps had said it could provide cover for the east and southeast coasts for €232 million over ten years, €378 million cheaper than a commercial provider.

The Department of Transport pointed out that there was no government approval to pay for the helicopters and pilot salaries the bid required.

Days after receiving the 415-page submission from the Air Corps in March 2021, the department’s secretary-general Ken expressed doubts about “the deliverability” of the bid in an email to Jacqui McCrum, Department of Defence secretary-general.

Spratt said the Air Corps was counting helicopters and pilots in its bid before “securing the requisite approvals and funding from DPER (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform)” for their purchase and for wage costs.

“The proposal relies on the procurement of at least two additional helicopters and an increase of over 40 per cent in pilot numbers, so these issues are crucial to the overall credibility of the proposal,” Spratt said in his email to McCrum.

In an earlier letter to Spratt, McCrum said that “the success of the proposed approach to recruiting and retaining such personnel is predicated on a range of remuneration and HR policy approaches, many of which are not in keeping with current practices across the public sector … DPER buy-in and agreement is, therefore, a pre-requisite to the feasibility of the Air Corps proposal.”

The Air Corps was eventually excluded from the tender process, understood to be worth over €1 billion.

Aerossurance, a Scottish aviation consultancy, had challenged the suitability and range of the AW1391 helicopters proposed to deliver the service, but the Department of Transport said it had continued to engage with Air Corps on the basis of using larger helicopters.

The correspondence was released under the Freedom of Information Act to Senator Gerard Craughwell, who had protested about the exclusion of the Air Corps on the basis of the Aerosurrance report.

However, the department has confirmed it was ruled out because its proposal was more costly, according to consultants KMPG.

Read more in The Sunday Times here (subscription required).

Published in Rescue, Coastguard
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