Several Emergency Services concerned they cannot afford new radio system
Several emergency services are concerned they will not be able to afford the Government’s new emergency services radio network if it is designed primarily for the Gardaí, according to Fine Gael Marine Spokesman Deputy John Perry. Deputy Perry warned that if the radio system is incompatible across a range of emergency services, it will end up as an expensive white elephant like the hugely expensive PPARS system, which landed taxpayers with a massive bill of €150 million.
“There are very real fears within the emergency services community that the proposed radio network will be developed primarily to a specification designed by the Gardaí. This could mean the system is beyond affordability for the other blue light services, such as the Coastguard and Lifeboats. A tender process is currently underway for a contract to develop the managed digital radio service throughout the State. This service is intended to provide support to all emergency services. There are serious fears that the project specification will make it difficult for less well-resourced emergency organisations like the Coastguard or the Lifeboat Services to avail of it.
“When I wrote to Finance Minister Brian Cowen, I received a reply from Tim Duggan, the Chair of the InterAgency Procurement Group which was established to manage the procurement of the digital radio service. While Mr Duggan clearly states that the Department of Finance aims to establish a facility which any non-commercial public body will be able to use, he fails to outline how this will be done.
“In light of the whole debacle with PPARS and the incompatibility of that system, I believe the current tender for this project is flawed. If the direction given for the tender is flawed, then the final product will be flawed. There is a risk that, like PPARS, the system could be incompatible across the range of emergency services. The company tendering will only be tendering on the specifications provided, and this system could end up obsolete. There is no indication as to what emergency services, if any, were consulted prior to drawing up these specifications.
“This issue needs to be brought before an Oireachtas Committee for a complete discussion, as it will have serious implications for services provided by the State over the coming years. I also asked Minister Cowen to clarify if existing infrastructure throughout the State would be used, to minimise costs and the proliferation of masts. In response to this query, I was simply told that the locations and costs of the State’s masts would be made available to the chosen provider and that ‘it is up to the tenderer to determine how best to use these resources’. This is simply not good enough. The Government needs to ensure that the State gets the best possible value for money from this project, and must guarantee that the chosen candidate for this project uses the current resources to full advantage.”