Steps omitted in Navy order won by VSEL

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A SENIOR Ministry of Defence official yesterday acknowledged that there had been unusual aspects to the way the pounds 143m contract to build the Navy's new helicopter carrier was awarded earlier this year, writes Chris Blackhurst.

The contract to build the carrier was won by VSEL, the Cumbria shipbuilder, in the face of ferocious resistance from Swan Hunter on Tyneside. VSEL bid pounds 71m less than Swan Hunter, whose failure to land the work forced the yard into receivership.

But Dr Malcolm McIntosh, head of defence procurement, admitted to MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee that three normal steps had been dispensed with in the helicopter tendering process.

Terry Davis MP said the decisions not to issue a 'Staff Requirement' to the two bidders telling them exactly what the Navy wanted the ship to do; not to hold a bidders' conference, where competitors are brought together with the MoD to discuss the contract; and not to formally consolidate the two bids to make a precise comparison, were the reasons why 'a lot of people think the award was not seen to be fair'.

Dr McIntosh was unable to say who had taken the decisions. However, he claimed that the scrapping of the three steps did not affect the outcome of the