I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 104 together.
In compliance with the Public Spending Code, a process has commenced to consider options for the next Search and Rescue (SAR) aviation contract as the existing contract comes to an end over the coming years. A SAR Aviation Steering Group chaired by the Director of the Irish Coast Guard was established last year to manage this process with a view to ensuring the next service meets domestic and international obligations for search and rescue and represents value for money for the State. As key stakeholders, the Department of Defence and the Air Corps are fully engaged in these deliberations, including as members of this Steering Group.
The Group meets regularly for updates on the procurement and to input on the direction of the process. It receives progress reports on the project plan at regular intervals identifying where interactions with stakeholders/ potential bidders have taken place.
As a first step in the Public Spending Code process, a Strategic Assessment and Preliminary Appraisal was prepared by my Department’s Strategic Research and Analysis Division in close consultation with the Steering Group and in line with so-called “Gate 0” of the Public Spending Code. Having been agreed by the Steering Group, this went to Government for information in July.
This assessment included a strategic assessment, setting out the strategic context for SAR aviation programme, an organisational overview, and a survey of existing policies and strategies relevant to the programme. It identified the spending objectives of the programme including existing arrangements and relevant business needs; it applied the Programme Logic Model to look at potential scope and key service requirements; and identified benefits, risks, constraints and dependencies. It also included a Service Specification Framework, including critical success factors, an Options Framework and a Service Specification. It also conducted a preliminary options filtering looking at potential Service Delivery Models and Service Providers. It made some recommendations in this regard. It also touched on issues relating to governance and procurement.
As regards the preliminary filtering of options, this took account of considerations in relation to the risks, affordability and deliverability. Given that the decision-making process in relation to this is still on-going and will lead to a Government decision ultimately, it is not appropriate to release any specific details in relation to this Strategic Assessment nor the considerations around any one of the options considered as part of the Preliminary Appraisal process.
The next step in the procurement process is a detailed business case which is currently being prepared for Government. Ultimately, decisions on the scope, nature and procurement strategy for the next service will be a matter for Government once the detailed business case has been finalised. The timeframe for this will depend on various factors but it is expected that a memorandum will be brought to Government in Q1 2021.
In the interests of transparency, updates on the process are provided via the Government's etenders.ie website and a dedicated webpage.