Monday, 9 November 2009
Defence Forces Equipment
Brian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
The principles of transparency, non-discrimination and equality of treatment are applied to the widest possible extent to companies interested in supplying such equipment to the Defence Forces. Tender competitions are held by the contracts branch in the Department for the acquisition of a wide range of defensive equipment covering standard ammunition, weapons, armoured personnel carriers, light tactical armoured vehicles and a range of equipment for individual soldiers to ensure that they are suitably equipped to carry out their duties at home and overseas. The principal aims of such tender competitions are to achieve value for money for such equipment and to ensure a fair tendering process for all companies.
Earlier this year, as Senator Norris outlined, the Department of Defence initiated a tender competition for the supply of surveillance and target acquisition equipment for four of the fleet of 27 light tactical armoured vehicles that are being supplied by BAE Systems in South Africa. The Department of Defence conducts tender competitions in accordance with EU procurement guidelines.
For procurements of defensive equipment in excess of €l million, the code of conduct on defence procurement is observed and competitions are advertised by the European Defence Agency. The tender competition for the surveillance and target acquisition suite was advertised on the European Defence Agency website, as is the standard practice given the value involved.
Following an initial evaluation of the tender responses by the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, four tender proposals were deemed to have satisfied the criteria. A detailed evaluation of tenders was completed and the contract for the award of the surveillance and target acquisition equipment, with a value of €2.37 million inclusive of VAT, was awarded to the firm referred to by Senator Norris, Elbit Systems, on 11 September this year. Their tender was considered the most economically advantageous one in line with the award criteria set out for the competition. The key criteria included functional characteristics and performance of the equipment, technical merit and price.
The four surveillance and target acquisition suites ordered for use with four of the armoured vehicles, are required to enhance the capability of the Defence Forces to carry out surveillance and target acquisition for overseas peace support operations. They will be used as an information-gathering asset and will enhance force protection and the safety of Irish troops on such missions. The four surveillance and target acquisition vehicle variants will be delivered in mid-2010.
The principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts is used for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures remains the absolute requirement to allow fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders, which are assessed on the basis of obtaining best value for money for the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces.
Tender competitions are held in accordance with the EU code of conduct on export controls. The tender competitions are open to companies in individual countries in accordance with the terms of all United Nations, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and European Union arms embargoes or restrictions. I am advised that there is no general embargo or restriction on trade with Israel currently and that neither Elbit Systems Limited nor Israel have had embargoes or restrictions imposed on them. The matter of Ireland applying a general trade embargo to Israel raises implications for foreign policy and is primarily a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
I am aware that the Government has consistently opposed proposals for trade, diplomatic, cultural, academic, sporting or other boycotts of Israel. The Minister for Foreign Affairs recently stated in the Dáil that calls for a general EU trade boycott, the suspension of the existing association agreement, or the imposition of an arms embargo on Israel are not practicable as they would not have any prospect of attracting the necessary consensus amongst member states.
The Department of Defence procures equipment that enhances the capability of the Defence Forces on overseas peace support operations and affords the greatest possible force protection to Irish troops whilst on such missions. The procurement of modern defensive equipment has been a priority for the Minister for Defence in recent years. The purchase of such equipment has had a very positive effect on the capabilities of Defence Forces personnel, especially when faced with difficult overseas assignments such as in Chad.
The Department of Defence is obliged to deal impartially with all companies that enter its procurement competitions. It cannot pick and choose whom to deal with in situations where there is no embargo in place. To do so could raise the possibility of a legal challenge to the Department, which would result in the delay of the delivery of essential equipment to the Defence Forces.
The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces must evaluate tenders on the basis of objective criteria set out in the tender documentation. The award of contracts has to be on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender that meets the requirements of the Department and the Defence Forces.