Decision to invite fresh tenders puts end to Invest NI legal row
Invest NI has agreed to bring a tender to provide a business start-up service controversially awarded to a Scottish agency back to the market after a prolonged court case.
Enterprise NI, which runs Northern Ireland's enterprise agencies, took Invest NI to court over its decision in September last year to award a contract for the running of Go For It to a consortium of business advisers KPMG and Scottish agency The Go Group.
The Northern Ireland body had helped run Invest NI's programme for around 20 years.
The litigation began at the end of last year but now the parties involved have decided to stop the action while saying that they continue to have different views over the issues at stake.
Invest NI and Enterprise NI said in a joint statement yesterday: "The legal challenge and current trial are taking much longer than all parties anticipated.
"Both Enterprise NI and Invest NI are concerned that the delay continues to impact adversely on the provision of a full business start support programme for those members of the public who may be interested in starting a business.
"As the proposed contract under scrutiny would only run until September 2013, any further delays would have a detrimental impact on the logistics of organising and introducing a new service of this type. On this basis, the parties, whilst continuing to differ in their views in relation to the issues raised in the litigation, have agreed that Invest NI will terminate the current procurement process, and that the legal action will end, on the basis that Invest NI will be going back out to the market with a revised proposal for the provision of a business start service."
Although the tender was awarded, the award was subject to a cooling-off period during which unsuccessful bidders could challenge Invest NI's decision.
Enterprise NI is an umbrella organisation for Northern Ireland's local enterprise agencies (LEAs), which deliver business contracts including the Go For It programme.
Around 10 people are employed at Enterprise NI's Limavady headquarters but over 200 people work in member LEAs.
No-one from The Go Group was available for comment when the Belfast Telegraph tried to contact them last night.
The disputed contract was set to run until September next year