Mayo County Council have been slammed by members of Castlebar Town Council for their procurement system with councillors claiming that the system is putting plant-hire operators in the county out of business.
At last Thursday’s monthly meeting of Castlebar Town Council, Mayo County Council Procurement Officer John Maughan gave a presentation on how the council tenders for the provision of goods and services.
He argued that they liked nothing more than when local contractors won the tenders but they were legally bound to give the contract to the best tender.
“You know the sound that goes off when Ryanair land a flight on time? Well that’s like the sound in our office when a local contractor wins the tender. But we must be legal, transparent and secure optimum value for the taxpayer.
“Thankfully not too much of our business is going outside the county and we’d like to stay loyal to local businesses but when you advertise via an E-tender (an internet application open for any contractor inside and outside Ireland to bid for), you can’t control that,” Mr Maughan told the meeting.
However, in a heated exchange with Mr Maughan [see side story], Cllr Frank Durcan argued that a lot of local plant-hire operators were being put out of business due to contracts going to outside operators.
“I don’t think there’s a plant hire operator in this county that is not devastated because of this system. This is a case of being penny wise and pound foolish,” said Cllr Durcan.
A number of other councillors also stated that outside operators wouldn’t have the same response time as local contractors while Cllr Brendan Henaghan questioned the long-term impact.
“What I would be worried about with the tendering for plant and machinery is that we could be involved in a race to the bottom and in five years time there will be no local suppliers to compete with outside operators who will then be able to charge higher prices. I would urge that local operators be supported as much as possible,” said Cllr Henaghan.
John Maughan replied that cost was not the only factor in awarding a tender but it was the most significant one. He said that if the councillors had a problem with procurement procedures they should ‘challenge the system at a different level’ as he was only implementing policy.
He also told the meeting that he does procurement for the four local authorities in Mayo - the three town councils and Mayo County Council - and the role of the Procurement Officer was set up in Mayo in November, 2008. He has a responsibility for a €60 million annual spend and cited several savings his department has made.
These include a rebate of €160,00 from the ESB for overcharged accounts, €245,000 by moving from ESB to Energia, a €200,000 saving in sludge removal and a cut in cash collection charges from the Mayo Motor Tax Office in Castlebar from €60,000 to €7,000.
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Maughan and Durcan in bitter row over procurement
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