Cllr John Hogan - a critic of the new procurement rules
A new policy by Templemore Garda Training College to source much of its food and other items from national or international suppliers instead of local producers, was met with anger and protests on Monday morning.
Some suppliers to the Garda College, including from as far away as Newport, who have lost their contracts, took part in the picket at the College gates on Monday morning at 8.30am.
The protest is a consequence of the National Procurement Policy which decrees that the College awards contracts to the lowest tender, based on price. The policy has led to many of the College's previous contractors losing out to national and international tenders.
Cllr John Hogan took part in the picket, and told the media that one business which supplied milk to the College, had bid for the new tender, but the College will now source its milk from a supplier in Northern Ireland as they are a few cents cheaper. Cllr Hogan criticised the government’s commitment to rural communities. “The people here really feel the Government is letting them down.”
Templemore based Cllr Joe Bourke, said it was a blow to small local producers and businesses in the town. “I
t doesn’t make sense. The service they provide to the College is an exceptional service. Everyone’s going to lose out.”
Cllr Bourke said the government has to be seen to get value for money, “but the service they get from local suppliers is second to none.” Under the new regime, the College may only get a bread service “twice or three times a week,” and this could lead to huge waste.
“The schools are the same. They can’t supply to them either. It’s a blow for Templemore. Templemore needs everything it can get. We can’t compete with the likes of Thurles or Roscrea. Both towns have Dunnes, Tescos, Aldis, Supermacs, and Templemore doesn’t have any of them.” Small local businesses “will have to readjust,” added Cllr Bourke. “We can shout and roar about it, but that’s the policy.”
An Garda Síochána said the new procurement procedures were put in place following an audit at the Garda College, and released a statement justifying the decision. An Garda Siochana said the new policies were put in place following an audit at the Garda College.
A statement read: "The Garda Internal Audit Section’s (GIAS) - Interim Audit Report in the Financial Procedure in the Garda College Templemore was published in February 2017.
"One of 19 recommendations in this report was to ensure that all purchases for the college including the Restaurant should be strictly in accordance with Public Procurement legislation and that advice should be sought from the Public Procurement Office in Garda H.Q. and the Office of Government Procurement in this regard.
"An Garda Síochána accepted the findings and committed to implementing all the recommendations in this report as a priority. The Policing Authority were tasked by the Minister of Justice to oversee the implementation of these recommendations.
"Public procurement is governed by EU and national rules. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money.
"It would be a breach of the EU rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular candidates on grounds such as nationality, organisational size, etc. and there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules."
Mr Martin Grey, who heads the Templemore Traders group which represents local businesses, said there has been widespread dismay at this policy, since it was first introduced about 12 months ago. He strongly criticised the new rules.
Mr Grey told the Tipperary Star that their members see this policy as a “disaster for the local economy.” While it was hard to quantify, up to half a million euro may not now be spent locally, having knock-on effects on local jobs. “I couldn't say for certain how it's going to affect us jobwise, but there are several businesses which would have a high proportion of their turnover associated with supplying the College.”
“They feel aggrieved because they're being thrown out over something they had nothing to with whatsoever.” The controversies surrounding the College in recent years, have unfairly affected local businesses, said Mr Grey. The procurement policy has caused “much grief. We had a Fire Station here in Templemore that went bust. It was given over to Carillion (a UK company), and they were all part of this public procurement.”
It's basically “big boy wins out,” and the government isn't saving any money. “This is an unelected decision, the pressure now has to be put on to overturn the decision.”
Mr Grey said the policy will cost the government even more money in the long run. “I can't see how there's value for money in terms of getting eggs from Newry, instead of Templemore.”