Friday, 17 October 2008

Rathlin Ferry Con Tract

Has the Committee for Regional Development examined the pros and cons of the Rathlin ferry contract and operation? The latest document - dated April 18, 2008 - from a seemingly dodgy dossier indicates that no formal contract was signed prior to the Minister's announcement of the winning tender on April 21, 2008.

.. the completion of a formal contract will not be necessary

What are the legal consequences of this state of affairs?

If the £1.2 million budgeted by DRD for a new passenger only ferry has been withdrawn where is the money for the new catamaran coming from?

The last two islanders on Rathlin and members of RDCA maintain a vigil at the quayside for the catamaran promised 30 years ago ...

Despite the delay, both men remain confident and hope that the provision of the vessel would bring economic benefit


7. Mr McKay (North Antrim):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development to detail the work he has carried out in relation to Rathlin Island since taking up office. (AQO 1052/09)

The timing is intriguing. Surely the Minister isn't anticipating bad news following the internal investigations. The investigators are due to report by the end of this month.

MLAs may well be surprised that Steve Rowsell, one of the independent investigators, has twice acted in recent times as an expert witness for Government departments re. procurement. MLAs on the DRD and DFP committees appear to have adopted a complacent approach to ongoing problems as well as to questionable aspects of the contract process.

Why should it be left to members of the public to raise concerns that are primarily the responsibility of politicians and civil servants?

Mysterious bowser ... some regulations

And now a little something for our Cape Clear readers from a document supplied during the tendering processes. However, there would appear to be a problem with cargo arrangements for Cape Clear:

The operator of the cargo boat for three of the islands, which acted for the last 20 years or so, as back up to the Naomh Ciaran and in recent years, - since regulation changes – as the only transport for essential fodder supplies and the only practical method of moving cattle for sale, is now no longer available to the operator of the Naomh Ciaran, as she is having to find work where she can in the absence of any move from the DCRGA.

Adds October 27

True Light passenger certificate (incomplete and blurred). This isn't the only document which is barely legible.

Why did the Government award the contract to an individual rather than a company? Why was the need for a financial guarantee dropped from the second tender? Why did a CPD official assert that there was no need for a formal contract a few days before the contract was announced? Is DRD paying a subsidy to a company, RIFL, that it doesn't have a legal relationship with?

Adds October 29

Are DRD and marine safety officials maintaining adequate surveillance on Rathlin ferry operations or are they relying on the public to highlight 'shortcomings'?

The St Sorney, the passenger only ferry, allegedly received its passenger certificate (from RoI authorities) on July 1 yet the vessel broke down on its way to Ballycastle and spent most of August out of action with engine and shaft problems.

What sanctions have been or will be imposed for failing to have a vehicle ferry in place during all of the planned departure of the Canna and for the transportation of an allegedly unmarked fuel bowser on the Canna recently? The mainstream media can report its own difficulties in covering the latter story.

The ferry website has belatedly added its company registration and VAT numbers but I'm told that legislation demands that other information be included. Perhaps the relevant Government authority could advise.

Why is a locally registered UK company billing its on-line customers in euros? Did someone get a daft notion about a Rathlin tax haven?

Welcome to the Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd. booking system. For best prices book your tickets online.

All Prices are shown in € (Euro)

Why might these customers have to pay more than those who pay in pounds and how would they know if they were?

Why has this company changed its registered address in such a short space of time? It looks most unusual.

Adds October 30

Ministerial replies:

Should tender have been reviewed?

Was second tender not compliant too?

St Sorney update notes

Adds October 31

The three investigations were expected to be concluded and reported on by the end of this month.

Is one of the civil servants under investigation still involved in decision making and correspondence related to the Rathlin ferry operation? If so, surely that is a remarkable state of affairs.

There's been a lot of interest from Edinburgh these past few weeks. It seems likely that the Scottish government is keeping a close watch on possible negative news from the Government investigations here. Could it have done more to protect the interests of its own companies and former staff and could it have done so sooner?

Adds November 1

Some weekly business review meetings and other official quotes:

In response to a query from one of the Independent Board members, Doreen Brown said the new ferry service was attracting positive feedback from island residents and tourists.

Departmental Board Meeting September 2, 2008



Doreen Brown advised that Rathlin Island ferry service was operating successfully.

Doreen, you cannot be serious. Perhaps you and your colleagues should have paid more attention to Jim Allister's advice.

Have independent members of the board been fully briefed about apparent discrepancies in the tendering process and about operational 'hiccups' since July 1?

Who pays the ferryman/motorman? Caledonian MacBrayne, Ciaran O'Driscoll or Rathlin Island Ferry Limited?

A traveller writes: "Large Fries and a BigMac for Rathlin"

Adds November 5

Still no news of a third target date for the release of the report into the three in-house DRD investigations. Paul Priestly, Permanent Secretary and accounting officer, released the second target date on October 1.

The document headlined "I see the council ratification as a formality" has generated a lot of interest. I wonder what will be the reaction in the council chamber when councillors realise they've been sidelined.

Photos and documents updated here and here