Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (198, 199, 200)

John Deasy

Question:

317 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the procedures being followed by the Garda for the maintenance of its helicopters are the most cost effective available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2533/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources that the procedures being followed for the maintenance of the Garda helicopters are as follows: the Department of Defence Vote provides for the maintenance of the GASU squirrel helicopter, up to 750 hours per annum. The operational hours of the helicopter currently fall within this threshold; the out-sourcing of the maintenance of the EC135 helicopter, on a trial basis, was provided for in the Government decisions of 20 November 2001 and 23 April 2002. Following a tender competition, in accordance with EU and national public procurement regulations and guidelines, a two year maintenance contract was awarded to McAlpine Helicopters Ltd. This contract came into effect on 1 January 2004.

John Deasy

Question:

318 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Government appointed interdepartmental committee on Garda aviation matters was established; the frequency with which this committee has met; and if he will give details of those meetings. [2534/04]

View answer

The Government approved a proposal from the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in November 2001 to contract out the piloting and maintenance of a new Garda helicopter, the EC 135, for a trial period and it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the interdepartmental committee that was set up to oversee this process. This committee met on three occasions in total, twice in January 2002 and once in June 2002.

In March 2002, having considered the various issues the interdepartmental committee submitted an interim report to the then Minister in which it recommended — for legal reasons — that the EC135 be introduced into service, on an interim basis, on the State military register while the longer term options were explored.

The matter was again submitted to Government who approved, in April 2002, the placement, on an interim basis, of the EC135 on the State military register with the Air Corps responsible for the piloting of the craft and directed the interdepartmental committee to continue to examine the options for the contracting out of piloting and maintenance of the new helicopter on a trial basis.

In June 2002, the interdepartmental committee met to discuss further actions required. The Department of Defence began work on the RFT for the out-sourcing of the maintenance for the EC 135. In December 2002, a tender for the long-term maintenance of the EC 135 was issued and following contract negotiations a two year maintenance contract was awarded to McAlpine Helicopters Ltd. This contract came into effect on 1 January 2004.

In addition, work began on a service level agreement between the Air Corps and the Garda Síochána on operating and reporting structures covering all aspects of joint operations. This service level agreement is almost finalised. Following the signing of this agreement, my officials, in consultation with colleagues in the Department of Defence, intend to reconvene the interdepartmental committee to consider further the out-sourcing of the piloting of the EC135 and related issues.

John Deasy

Question:

319 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the circumstances surrounding the certification of an additional seat for the second Garda helicopter and the acquisition of that seat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2535/04]

View answer

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources that the tender for the EC 135 Garda helicopter included a troop seat configuration for ease of ingress and egress from the helicopter of specialist teams and equipment in addition to the standard seating configuration.

Despite orders from a large number of police air support units for this capability, the seat manufacturer was unable to obtain certification from the aircraft manufacturer.

In the interim, a Martin Baker swivel seat was chosen as the preferred alternative option in order to meet Garda operational requirements along with maximising passenger and equipment carrying capability. The cost of the swivel seat was met from within the tender price. The Garda Síochána continues to maintain an interest in acquiring the troop seats when certification is achieved.