Scottish ferries scandal: Ferry body accused of 'rigged' contract forgets 'non-collusion' form from new vessels tender

An under-fire ferry public body failed to upload a key “non-collusion” document as part of its tender process for two new ferries intended for the Clyde and Hebrides network.

Ferry procurement body CMAL ‘forgot’ to upload the document, which asks bidding shipyards to state they have not bribed or colluded with others to reduce the competitiveness of the tender exercise. The error was only rectified on Monday morning after a potential bidder contacted the body, highlighting the omission.

The agency has been under pressure over the contractual arrangements relating to two other ferries being constructed by the nationalised Ferguson Marine shipyard. That contract, awarded in 2015, faces allegations of being “rigged” after a BBC Disclosure documentary showed key technical specification documents found their way into the hands of the shipyard, potentially demonstrating it received preferential treatment.

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The-then £97 million contract has spiralled into a political and financial fiasco, with the vessels now set to cost at least £300m and be delivered six years late. Nicola Sturgeon has faced questions about potential political interference in the contract due to the close political ties between the SNP and the-then owner of the shipyard, tycoon Jim McColl.

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In late October, transport minister Jenny Gilruth announced the Government would “accelerate” plans to strengthen the CalMac network by procuring two new ships for the Clyde and Hebrides network. That tender process opened on October 27, with it taking almost a month for the error to be noticed.

The ‘certificate of non-collusion’ is often included in tender processes to act as a written confirmation from the bidding company their bid was developed independently and without any inappropriate external deals or influence.

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CMAL’s form asks tenderers to sign a document that commits them to certifying their bid is a “bona fide tender, intended to be competitive”, with bidders having not “fixed or adjusted the amount of the tender” due to an agreement or arrangement with another person.

It also asks bidders to commit to not communicating the price of the tender to another company or entering into any agreement with another company they will not bid for the work or what the cost of the bid will be. It also asks bidders to confirm they will not bribe anyone to agree to do the same.

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The tender for two new ferries was published a few weeks ago.

The form also asks bidders to confirm whether bids are or are not impacted by the potential of Government subsidy.

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Graham Simpson, the Scottish Conservative transport spokesperson, said the omission was “inexcusably casual”. He said: “CMAL’s failure to include this ‘non-collusion’ document – crucial to the tendering process being seen as upfront and fair – is yet another worrying revelation.

“The commissioning process must be seen to be transparent and fair, particularly in light of the strong evidence that the contract to build the hugely-delayed and over-budget Glen Sannox and Hull 802 was rigged in Ferguson Marine’s favour.

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“This omission is inexcusably casual, given the SNP Government’s refusal to come clean with the public about how their money has been wasted on the Ferguson fiasco.”

A spokesperson for CMAL said: “The questions within the SPD(S) cover the same information and assurances as a certificate of non-collusion. However, further to a question posted via the tender website, we uploaded the form this morning.”

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