On 16 December (2011) I and my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced that information had come to light regarding the preferred bid in the search and rescue helicopter competition which required clarification.
In mid December, the preferred bidder in the SAR-H competition, Soteria, voluntarily came forward to inform the government of irregularities regarding the conduct of their bid team which had only then recently come to light. The irregularities included access by one of the consortium members, CHC Helicopter, to commercially sensitive information regarding the joint MOD/DfT project team’s evaluations of industry bids and evidence that a former member of that project team had assisted the consortium in its bid preparation, contrary to explicit assurances given to the project team.
Since December, our two departments have been working with Soteria to better understand the situation and its implications for the procurement process. In addition, the Ministry of Defence police are investigating how the commercially sensitive information came to be in the possession of the bidder. It would be inappropriate to comment further on the details of the investigation until it has finished.
However, even without the outcome of that investigation, the government has sufficient information to enable it to conclude that the irregularities that have been identified were such that that it would not be appropriate to proceed with either the preferred bid or with the current procurement process.
The Department for Transport and the Ministry of Defence will now consider the potential procurement options to meet future requirements for search and rescue helicopters in the United Kingdom, including options to maintain continuity of search and rescue helicopter cover until new longer term arrangements can be put in place.
We will make a further announcement once a way forward has been agreed.