Special Report 5: Garda Interview Recording Systems Summary

This report examines whether the process for the identification and acquisition of the equipment represented good public procurement practice and whether the acquisition of the equipment complied with public procurement law. By convention, the tendering parties' views were not sought in the compilation of this report since it deals only with the discharge of accountability by the State Body involved in regard to the regularity, propriety and financial effects of its procurement function. Therefore, the views of the State Body which assessed the tender proposals are recorded only as evidence of its assessment and are not represented as evidence of the correctness of that assessment.

Summary of Findings

Facilities to record evidence taken by Gardaí have been installed in 220 interview rooms in Garda Stations across the country. The equipment which was acquired in a procurement round conducted in 2001 consists of audio-visual recording systems using VHS. 252 systems in all were purchased for the national scheme.

Prior to the nationwide procurement round the Gardaí had engaged in pilot testing of the process and equipment. To facilitate this pilot testing 14 audio-visual systems were purchased between 1993 and the end of 2000.

Approximately ?193,000 was spent on equipment acquired for pilot testing and ?3.7 million on equipment acquired as part of the nationwide round.

The successful tenderer under the national scheme had also been the main supplier of the pilot stage equipment.

Concerns were raised about the fairness and objectivity of the procurement process.

As a result I examined the procurement focusing on two main issues

  • whether the acquisition of equipment by the Gardaí complied with public procurement law
  • whether the process for the identification and acquisition of the equipment represented good procurement practice.
Compliance with Public Procurement Law

On the matter of compliance with public procurement law, I was advised by a firm of solicitors. The conclusion of the legal expert on a range of questions posed by me was that while there had been breaches of the rules, those breaches were not material in that they would not affect the ultimate contract award decision.

The breaches noted were the failure to

  • ensure the publication of a contract award notice within the times specified and
  • give adequate reasons for the award decision made within the specified time.

The non-publication of an indicative notice specifically relating to the type of equipment required may have constituted a further non-material breach of the Directive.

Compliance with good Public Procurement Practice

I also examined the acquisition of the equipment from the viewpoint of good public procurement practice and noted that

  • the whole of the pilot testing between 1994 and 2000 was conducted on the basis of a single equipment solution
  • the relative merits of more modern DVD systems may not have been evaluated in sufficient detail to enable due consideration to be given to that option
  • certain pilot stage acquisitions were not the subject of competitive tendering.

The lessons to be learned from a review of the national procurement round conducted in 2001 include

  • the importance of ensuring that the definition of requirements is framed in a manner that maximises the number of technology and equipment solutions offered by tenderers
  • the need to ensure that the terms and conditions in tender documents support the procuring organisation in its quest for the best offer and, conversely, do not risk ruling out acceptable bids by the inclusion of inappropriate or unnecessary terms
  • the desirability of having an independent expert on the evaluation team.
National Guidance

I noted that the national guidance on procurement is somewhat out of date. There is a need to update this guidance to assist procuring organisations in

  • conducting pilot testing in a manner which both allows and encourages the identification of as wide a range as possible of acceptable technology solutions or equipment options
  • drawing up appropriate specifications and tender documents
  • specifying evaluation schemes for both the qualification of suppliers and the selection of proposals for the supply of equipment
  • creating balanced evaluation teams which are, and can be demonstrated as being, simultaneously expert and objective
  • complying with the provisions of public procurement law.