The framework agreement for the acquisition of property valuation and agronomy services by Mayo County Council - which stipulates that firms tendering for valuation work must have an annual turnover of €150,000 – was this week described by one councillor as “a joke”, and “uncompetitive” by another, in a heated debate on the framework at the April meeting of the local authority.
“This framework is a joke and an insult to all councillors,” Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn told the meeting on Monday last. “All we are doing here is protectionism for certain services.”
Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne agreed, saying: “I believe it contains certain clauses that are contrary to the competition act and are uncompetitive.”
The main bone of contention for the councillors was that for firms to have been eligible to apply to tender for valuation services for the council, they had to have a turnover of at least €150,000 a year.
Last June the council advertised for tenders for services from qualified firms, and six applied before the closing date last August. Of the six applicants, four were successful in meeting the turnover criteria, two of them from Dublin, one from Cork, and only one Mayo based firm, Tuohy and O’Toole, from Westport.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser later in the week, Fine Gael councillor Michael Burke, who spoke at length on the issue in the chamber, outlined the reasons why he and a large number of councillors were angry with the framework that had been put in place. “Even in the good times, hardly anybody would have been doing that kind of business to qualify for this tender. You would have to be doing between 400 and 500 valuations a year, unless you were doing miles and miles of land to get near qualifying to tender for this.”
Cllr Burke believes that having a turnover stipulation in the framework is a flawed measure. “Turnover is not the important thing here, it’s the level of professional indemnity if something is done wrong that is important in this type of business.”
Cllr Burke, who is an auctioneer, also pointed out that he had no interest in the process professionally and did not get involved in the tender process. “This is something we have to look at as a council, if you wanted to put your name in and saw you have to have €150,000 turnover before even being considered, you are not going to waste your time. It is not fair for everybody, which it should be.”
With three of the firms that qualified under the framework based far away from the county, Cllr Burke believes the €150,000 stipulation closes the door on many potential local firms that would like to tender for the work.
“Are firms from Dublin or Cork going to send someone down to do a valuation of a Mayo council house? Is it worth it for them?”
Cllr Burke does not believe that the criteria was structured on purpose to exclude a lot of those involved in the business, but he says it still needs to be changed.
“I’m sure that the people who put this framework together did it with nothing but the best of intentions, and this has happened by accident and not design, but it is something that we have to get right and fair for everybody.”