Something went “very wrong” in the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority (MRWA)’s massive waste contract tender process, a judge has said.
An injunction has been imposed by the High Court preventing MRWA from entering in a long-term waste contract with Sita UK after Covanta, the other bidder for a 30-year £1.18bn contract, claimed that the procurement process had been legally flawed.
As a result of the injunction MRWA will not be able to enter the contract with Sita until the full hearing, which is due in April or May 2014.
In a written judgment, judge Mr Justice Coulson said that he agreed with the need for a interim injunction because there was a serious issue to be tried.
He described it as “a curious result” that six years of procurement process, including two-and-a-half years of intensive dialogue between authority and tenderer, could lead to the authority’s rejection of important aspects of Covanta’s tender “in so firm a manner”.
“That suggests that something, somewhere, went very wrong with the tender process,” Judge Coulson said, “Of course, the issue as to what that was, and the nature of any and all warnings given by MWDA during the process, about the matters to which they ultimately objected, can only be resolved at the trial.”
Covanta claimed its bid scored 0% under ‘legal and contractual’ and the ‘overall integrity’ criteria but MRWA never informed Covanta that important aspects of its tender were “fundamentally unacceptable”.
Another factor Judge Coulson considered to be in favour of the injunction was that if Covanta won the case and was compensated, taxpayers would be paying for the waste contract twice: once to SITA to perform the service and once to Covanta for being denied the opportunity.
He also said it was in the public interest that authorities, such as MRWA, comply with procurement legislation as that was in line with EU law.
MRWA reiterated it regretted Covanta had decide to pursue litigation and that it would be “vigorously defending” the claim brought against it.
Sita declined to comment.