Safety consultant demands explanation from public body that rejected its tender for a higher bid

A health and safety consultant is seeking legal advice after an NHS trust rejected its bid for a contract even though it was less than half the next lowest tender.

Goddard Consulting said it would provide CDM co-ordination services for the redevelopment of a perinatal wing at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge for £8,500, but its bid was rejected, even though the next highest was £18,750.

The news comes as lawyers are reporting increasing numbers of challenges to public procurement decisions in the downturn.

Goddard is now considering legal action, because it believes Cambridge University Hospitals NHS trust could be in breach of contracting regulations. It has written to the trust demanding an explanation and says it will consult lawyers if it does not receive a satisfactory response.

The Public Contracts Regulations 2006 says public contracts must be awarded to the party whose bid is either the most economically advantageous or the cheapest.

Ailsa Bowring, project manager at the trust, said the hospital had made clear that the assessment would rely 70% on quality and 30% on cost, but Goddard said he did not think the trust could “justify this structure”. He said: “There isn’t a lot of deviation between one CDM co-ordinator and the next. Either a firm is qualified or it’s not.”

George Lubega, a partner in law firm Pinsent Masons, said Goddard had “good grounds to challenge the authority”. He said: “In cases like this, authorities can’t assess quality, because all firms will share the same standard. We’re seeing more cases like this, and courts are becoming increasingly sympathetic to these challenges.”

The trust said it would respond to Goddard’s complaint in the next 10 days.