In accordance with its constituent councils’ Waste Management Plan, arc21 is seeking to develop critical new infrastructure which is needed to allow the councils to discharge their statutory waste planning and delivery obligations.
This is the largest collaborative project ever undertaken by local government in Northern Ireland and aims to deal with all the councils’ wastes, including residual (black bin) waste (i.e., what’s left behind after all the material which can be recycled and composted is removed). In terms of this rubbish, the objective is to safeguard council waste services as we move towards a fully functioning circular economy and provide a better environmental and financial solution to our current reliance on landfill and exporting waste overseas. How though, does local government conduct such a significant procurement project? As a public procurement exercise, arc21’s proposals are guided by a clear, tried and tested process. After much consultation and approval by both its councils and Stormont, arc21 officially began its procurement in 2008 to develop a suite of waste treatment facilities. In this instance, the public procurement route chosen was a ‘competitive dialogue’ procedure with bidders that allows a variety of potential solutions to be considered before a call for a final tenders submission is made. Reducing risks and uncertainty (such as securing planning permission) before considering the final business case was built into the process. This will allow the councils to improve the certainty of delivering the project successfully by reducing critical regulatory risks and helping provide value-for-money for both councils and ratepayers. Over the years, Government contributed funding to support this approach and to ensure that the procurement process was correctly undertaken. A site selection process was also undertaken in tandem to the procurement exercise. Final Decision Rests with Councils If and when planning permission is granted, the procurement process will proceed to request that the bidder prepare and submit a Final Business Case to arc21 (an initial Outline Business Case was conducted for councils and the Department as part of the procurement process). In line with Treasury guidance, once the bidder has submitted their business case, arc21 would undertake a detailed appraisal of the project’s economic case; a review by an independent panel would also be provided. If the proposal represents value-for-money, it would be recommended by arc21 to its councils; but it is worth highlighting that the final decision to award the contract will rest with the councils. As with any public sector contract award, there are obligations on both the client and the bidder. If an award of contract is made following full consideration of the various options, the successful bidder will raise the funds to develop the site, build the facilities, commission the installed equipment and then operate them. Once commissioned, the facilities would be publicly owned and once operating, councils would pay a gate fee for the rubbish they collect to be treated. Councils would also share in the anticipated revenues generated from the operation of these facilities (i.e., from the sale of electricity and recovered materials).