Challenge to awarding of contract for supply of state interpreters dismissed

A challenge to the awarding of a contract for the supply of interpreters for the State's immigration service and Legal Aid Board has been dismissed by the High Court.

Challenge to awarding of contract for supply of state interpreters dismissed

By Ann O'Loughlin

A challenge to the awarding of a contract for the supply of interpreters for the State's immigration service and Legal Aid Board has been dismissed by the High Court.

In January, the High Court lifted an automatic suspension to the awarding of the contract after a company supplying interpreters to the State for several years, Word Perfect Translation Service Ltd, brought an action against the Minister for Pubic Expenditure and Reform challenging the integrity of the award process.

Under EU Remedies Regulations, once such a challenge is brought, it acts as an automatic suspension on the awarding of the contract pending determination of the matter by the court.

Word Perfect appealed that lifting of the suspension by the High Court in January.

In February, the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling on condition that the company's main proceedings over the awarding of the contract to another company, "translation.ie" be prosecuted without delay.

The main proceedings came before the High Court promptly and were heard by Mr Justice Max Barrett who, on Friday, dismissed all grounds of Word Perfect's challenge.

Among the orders and declarations sought by Word Perfect were that the Minister had acted unlawfully in awarding the contract to translation.ie. It also sought orders that the Minister was obliged to commence a new tender process or, alternatively, that Word Perfect be awarded the contract.

Refusing all the reliefs sought, Mr Justice Barrett said he was satisfied, in relation to a complaint about the evaluators marking of the tenders, that the marks granted were "perfectly justified". The court struggled to see how the contrary could be contended, he said.

For the court to conclude a contracting authority was required to provide reasons for justifying the mark to translation.ie, following the first evaluation, would upset a balance that has been struck in legislation and previous case-law in relation to the basis of a decision and the respecting of interests of confidentiality and competition.

Criticism had been made that there were no notes by the evaluation committee and no evidence of a draft evaluation matrix being circulated in advance of their meetings. "There is no merit to these criticisms", the judge said.

The court did not consider there was any error on the part of the Minister in the evaluation and scoring of tenders, he said.

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