I along with the Regional Group TDs published our Dáil motion today calling on the Government to suspend the Search and Rescue (SAR) services tender process with immediate effect.
“Additional time would allow for the implementation and consideration of recommendations made by the Economic and Financial Evaluation Unit, Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, Report on the fatal crash of Helicopter R116, and the Review of the Irish National SAR Framework. The Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) was published on the 22nd of December 2021 and the deadline for responses to the PQQ is the 26th January 2022.
Regional Group members are concerned with the minimum requirements in the PQQ. The current PQQ states a minimum requirement of three helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft on standby. The number of bases and their locations are not stated. This will place the onus on the tendering company to consider these configurations”.
Members of the Regional Group note the failure of the Department of Transport to state its strategic requirements clearly may result in legal action from a failed tendering entity and lead to the closure of at least one of the current bases. This would most likely result in the closure of the R117 base in Waterford.
Regional Group members call on the Government for full transparency, to fully evaluate the expertise of the aviation consultants that they consult and lay before the Houses of Oireachtas the various submissions received to date about the Search and Rescue services.
“Value for money is of particular concern as this contract will cost more than €800 million over the next 10 years. There is no evidence that the appraisal process for the next SAR contract has been significantly improved or that a complete value-for-money analysis of the existing contract has been carried out, as recommended by the Economic and Financial Evaluation Unit”.
The Regional Group members also highlight that the service level agreements with the Department of Defence for providing fixed-wing SAR top cover on an “as available” basis were a severe flaw in the last SAR arrangement. It did not require or guarantee the 24/7/365 capability required by the Irish Coast Guard.