Skånetrafiken was wrong not to perform procurement of welfare transportation*
Using the outbreak of the coronavirus as an argument, Skånetrafiken extended an agreement on welfare transportation without a prior procurement procedure. The pandemic was not a reason not to perform a procurement according to the Swedish Competition Authority, which has now petitioned that Region Skåne be ordered to pay a procurement fine of SEK 7 million for an illegal direct award of a contract.
In 2017, Skånetrafiken – an administrative unit within Region Skåne – performed a procurement of contracts on service transportation. The contracts were for welfare transportation assignments to be performed up to 31 January 2022. In November 2020, the four-year contracts were extended by another year, meaning that they would extend over a total of five years, up until 31 January 2023. The contracts were extended without a procurement procedure.
Skånetrafiken claims that this extension of the contracts was due to the coronavirus outbreak and the unforeseen circumstances that the pandemic had caused. The situation that, in the opinion of Skånetrafiken, justified the contract extension arose in March 2020. However, the extension was not finalized until November and pertained to a contract period that would begin almost two years later.
Given these circumstances, it is the view of the Swedish Competition Authority that the contracts could not be extended so far in advance. There was no pressing urgency in the case at hand. Therefore, a new procurement procedure should have been performed.
“Of course, the pandemic and its consequences are circumstances that no one could have predicted. Planning ahead in procurement is important, but must be done in a manner that complies with the regulations,” says Rikard Jermsten, director-general of the Swedish Competition Authority.
The Swedish Competition Authority is now turning to the Administrative Court in Malmö and petitioning that Region Skåne be ordered to pay an procurement fine of SEK 7 million for having performed an illegal direct award of contract.