The Greens party expressed their outrage on Thursday over the findings of the auditor general’s report which stated that the forestry department grossly overpaid for firefighting helicopters.
The party said it is inexcusable that key services be obtained at such exorbitant costs – referencing the report’s finding that taxpayers were asked to fork out 287 per cent more than was originally set out in the tender.
The scandal is centred on the forestry department’s tender to purchase the services of two helicopters for six months per year, for two years – with the option of a two-year extension. The cost was estimated at €6.8m for four years.
The result, however, was that the state purchased the services for €17.8m for the four years.
The Greens said that they fully support the auditor general’s office, which has proceeded to file a complaint to the anti-corruption authority.
On Wednesday, the auditor general’s office called on the agriculture minister to establish an independent committee to examine the case, as one of the members on the tenders review authority, said there are “major deficiencies” surrounding the helicopters that were finally chosen and has filed a report to police chief.
The member has also called on the attorney-general to investigate the possibility of criminal or disciplinary offences, as well as the audit service to examine the procedures which were followed.
The audit service noted the report is incomplete because many of the documents required that it asked for were apparently returned to the owners of the helicopters even though copies should have been kept.
According to the report, the requirements specified in the tender process appeared to paint a very specific picture that guided the selection from which company the helicopters would be obtained.
The report also revealed that as the tender process was ongoing, the estimate of the cost was changed – something the procuring authority, tenders review authority and public procurement authority was aware of. “This is unacceptable, illegal and goes against every principle that public contracts should have.”
Even though the equipment is essential for the country, this is no excuse to bypass legislation, the report outlined.