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”.