Procurement Law Case Note - Manifest Error And The Importance Of Being 'Word Perfect'

Published date29 October 2020
Subject MatterGovernment, Public Sector, Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Government Contracts, Procurement & PPP, Trials & Appeals & Compensation
Law FirmEversheds Sutherland
AuthorMr Peter Curran


The Irish Supreme Court has now delivered a final decision in long-running and multi-faceted litigation brought by Word Perfect Translation Services Limited ("Word Perfect") against the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform ("the Minister") in relation to the award of a contract for interpretation services1. Word Perfect sought review of the award on a number of grounds, including manifest error, failure to provide reasons for the decision and grounds related to concerns about the integrity and transparency of the public procurement process. The grounds were narrowed to two issues before the Supreme Court; these related to the test by which a tender award under procurement legislation may be properly reviewed by a court for "manifest error". In a judgment delivered by O' Donnell J, the Supreme Court found that there was a manifest error in respect of one aspect of the evaluation process and consequently set aside the award decision.

Facts of the Case

The proceedings concerned a mini-tender under a multi-provider framework for the provision of interpretation services. Word Perfect came a close second in the competition, achieving 870 out of 1,000 available marks, 15 marks behind the successful tenderer The award decision was challenged by Word Perfect and the ensuing litigation gave rise to a number of important judgments in the High Court and Court of Appeal concerning the adequacy of damages as a remedy in procurement cases2 and discovery3. The substantive proceedings concerned allegations that the contracting authority had committed manifest errors in its evaluation process and failed to provide reasons for its award decision. The High Court initially rejected all arguments submitted by Word Perfect4. Word Perfect appealed on four grounds, two of which concerned the evaluation of a quality assurance plan and a service delivery plan5.

Quality Assurance Plan

The tender documentation stated that there was a requirement for an effectively and efficiently managed interpretation service for which management information reporting was critical. Tenderers were required to explain in their tenders how they would provide management information reports and were provided with notional information to produce a number of sample bespoke reports. Each report was required to include a narrative summarising the information provided and a separate narrative explaining how tenderers would ensure that reports would be provided in a timely manner.

Word Perfect scored the full 200 marks for its response to this criterion. The successful tenderer,

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