Thursday, 17 March 2011

French court decision identifies RAPP Trans on Ecomouv conflict of interest

Further to the story from yesterday, French website Transport Logistique reports that the Swiss based consultancy firm RAPP Trans is the firm implicated in presenting a potential conflict of interest with the French heavy vehicle tolls project.

The report (in French) indicates the consortium ALVIA (comprising Sanef, Siemens and Atos) alleges "that the competitive dialogue did not obey "the principle of transparency and the principle of inviolability of applications".

The problem allegedly being that the French government relied on RAPP Trans to provide it with professional services.  RAPP Trans is a technical consultancy, best known for having designed the Swiss LSVA heavy vehicle distance based charging system that has been in place since 2001.  It has also undertaken other technical advice work in a number of European countries. 

RAPP Trans also allegedly has "close trade links" with Autostrade, the lead company in the winning bid for the French system, through work with the European Commission.

The fundamental legal question in the appeal will likely be whether those links are sufficient to overturn the tender. 

The appeal will be most interesting.  If the appeal does not succeed, it will raise questions about how transparent RAPP Trans was with the French government about its relationship with potential suppliers, it will possibly create a far higher standard of due diligence of separation of roles between advisors (if RAPP Trans had done work for Autostrade during the time of its work for the French government, it would appear to be a clear cut case of conflict, but if the relationship was beforehand it would seem less clear).   It could simply mean consultants have to choose more distinctly whether they want to advise governments or advise suppliers.  It is a decision that gets undertaken quite frequently - and it does not look good if any company is caught out appearing to be able to give unfair advantage to tenderers.

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