Preferred consortium had access to sensitive information

The government’s plans to privatise the country’s search and rescue helicopter service have been suspended after “irregularities”
emerged in the bidding process to find a supplier, the BBC reports today.

The preferred supplier, Soteria, a Franco-Canadian consortium, admitted it had access to commercially sensitive information. The Department for Transport and Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the preferred supplier would now not be used.

MoD Police are investigating how the information came to be in the possession of the bidder.

In a statement to Parliament regarding the £6bn procurement
programme, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The Preferred Bidder in the SAR-H competition, Soteria, came forward
to inform the government of irregularities regarding the conduct of
their bid team which had only then recently come to light.

“The irregularities included access by one of the consortium
members, CHC Helicopter, to commercially sensitive information regarding
the joint MOD/DfT project team’s evaluations of industry bids and
evidence that a former member of that project team had assisted the
consortium in its bid preparation, contrary to explicit assurances given
to the project team.”

He said the two departments would now “consider the potential
procurement options to meet future requirements for search and rescue
helicopters in the United Kingdom, including options to maintain
continuity of search and rescue helicopter cover until new longer term
arrangements can be put in place”.