Recently in the press there has been plenty of controversy over the Department for Transport’s decision to award DFDS, Brittany Ferries and Seaborne Freight three ferry contracts to provide additional shipping capacity in a no-deal Brexit. This was later found to have been awarded in a ‘secretive’ deal with no OJEU tender process, which has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny.
The contracts, worth over £100 million combined, came under fire with accusations of breaking EU procurement rules after being uncovered by Tussell, who were monitoring the contract awards via open data. A hoard of other issues also came to light with regard to Seaborne Freight, as the company didn’t actually own any ferries and didn’t have any contracts in place with the ports in question. Following investigation, the firm’s contract, worth £14m, was scrapped earlier this year.
Pay out to Eurotunnel
The Department for Transport has agreed to pay Eurotunnel £33m in an out-of-court settlement following legal action. Eurotunnel has confirmed it has reached a settlement with the Government to remain the preferred route for vital goods between the UK and the EU – this includes helping the NHS to access vital medicines.
Transparency in bidding for contracts
One of the main issues with the ferry controversy is the lack of transparency in the bidding process, to both the public and vested parties such as Eurotunnel. The Department for Transport put this down to ‘extreme urgency’, arising from the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, which increased the possibility of severe congestion around UK ports and wider disruptions. However, the publication of the original contract award on 24 December (Christmas Eve) also posed questions around the period for challenges being compromised.
At the moment the UK is governed by EU procurement laws, meaning all contracts over a certain threshold must be published via the OJEU process – all contract notices and awards are published openly for anyone to access. After Brexit the UK will not be party to the same procurement laws, but it is widely thought that transparency in procurement will be high up on the agenda and a new platform for accessing public sector contracts will be made available instantly for both buyers and suppliers.
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