Derry road contract delayed until 2022 as procurement process is discontinued after legal challenge

A Department of Infrastructure procurement process to appoint a road resurfacing contractor for Derry has been discontinued after a legal challenge.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 4:35 pm

The Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has revealed that a fresh competition will now have to be brought forward in the autumn.

It is unlikely a contract for the Derry and Strabane area will be in place until 2022.

Ms. Mallon said the situation is ‘seriously concerning.’

The process to appoint a contractor to patch potholes and resurface roads in Derry has been significantly delayed.

In a statement at the Stormont she explained: “A procurement competition was run to replace expired contracts in four areas: Newry, Mourne and Down; Mid Ulster; Derry and Strabane; and Omagh.

“After running a process that was designed in conjunction with the construction industry, letters providing notice of a decision to award four contracts were sent to tenderers in early March 2021.

“Writs of summons were subsequently issued on behalf of three of the unsuccessful tenderers in the four areas, thereby preventing the Department from awarding any of the four contracts.

“Officials engaged closely with departmental legal advisers to consider options for addressing that.

“However, on the basis of very clear legal advice that was provided by senior counsel, the DFI Roads and Rivers centre of procurement expertise (COPE) took the decision to discontinue the competition on June 4, 2021.”

The minister said arrangements are being made to ensure road patching can continue while the procurement process is rerun.

She said it is ‘a seriously concerning situation for me as Minister and for all road users as, at present, there are no contracts for resurfacing in those areas’. Ms. Mallon continued: “That means that badly needed capital investment will be delayed.

“I assure Members that officials are rapidly developing a new interim procurement strategy for resurfacing contracts, working closely with legal advisers and procurement experts in the Department of Finance to endeavour to reduce the procurement risks in relation to that area of work and release new tender competitions to the market as quickly as possible. That is an absolute priority for me as Minister.”

The stalled process means Derry will not have a dedicated asphalt contractor until next year.

“The planned timeline is to undertake pre-market engagement during the summer and to bring the first contracts to market in the autumn, with contracts to commence in early 2022,” said Ms. Mallon.

“I am not at all content with the situation, but I want to make sure that, while that process takes its course, we do everything that we can to ensure that we can resurface our roads.

“In addition to that procurement work, the Department plans to progress at pace one-off contracts and bundles of contracts for release and award later this year so that we can get roads in the affected areas resurfaced as quickly as possible.”