High Court Rules Government Tender Processes Illegal

James Lawless (right) with John O’Brien from EMC Copiers

A country wide group of small businesses, including Kildare managed Copier Supplier EMS Copiers, have successfully taken legal action against the government for effectively changing the basic terms and conditions of a public tender after it had been agreed.

The group instructed James Wall Solicitors based in Clane to challenge the position adopted by the State. James Wall stated “The case was fully defended at great expense but the High Court agreed with the applicant companies’ position which was that the Minister had no entitlement to interfere with the procedure after it had concluded and as a result rule out the possibility of local businesses doing business with other local businesses. The Court held that any interference was unlawful and therefore ineffective”.

That ruling is binding on the government but the State has not yet taken any positive action to implement the decision.

Traditionally it was common for offices, schools and other public buildings to source materials locally, supporting small businesses and jobs in their area along the way. This practice came to an end last year when Government Ministers Brian Hayes and Brendan Howlin issued a directive forcing the public sector to deal with a very restricted list of suppliers across a whole series of products.

The result of this directive has been to exclude hundreds of small businesses around the country from these vital public contracts, placing jobs, businesses and livelihoods at risk across the sector. However, Kildare based EMS Copiers, along with a group of similar companies around the country was not prepared to lets this occur without a fight and successfully took the government, along with the other members of its’ group, to court this Summer.

“We were not prepared to stand by and allow ourselves be excluded from public sector business by the stroke of a Minister’s pen” said Newbridge man and EMS Copiers Sales Manager, John O’Brien.

Kill resident and Managing Director, John Cahill, agreed. “The government were found to have acted outside their powers in issuing this directive” said John. “And a High Court Judge agreed with us when we challenged them”.

Local Politician and Barrister, James Lawless, (Fianna Fáil’s Naas Rep), has been championing their cause and said the government should now immediately withdraw the directive and allow local public sector buyers to source local suppliers where possible and economically viable across the board. “It is entirely unfair for the government to exclude so many small, local businesses in this way and now it has also been found to be unlawful” said James.

“However the government have yet to withdraw the directive and they continue to prioritise multi-nationals at the expense of local business. I am working with my parliamentary colleagues to have this challenged in the Dáil whilst the group will continue to fight them in the courts” said James.

“The bottom line is that jobs are at stake and the government has been found against by the courts. The time for action is now before they do any further damage – government must withdraw the directive and do the right thing before it is too late” James concluded.