A waste treatment initiative costing the taxpayer £3.1 million has been dropped, it was revealed.
Last year, the Quinn Group emerged as the favoured contractor to deal with council rubbish in a deal worth millions of pounds over 25 years. However, it wanted to use partners, and a bidder for the lucrative contract who lost out threatened legal action.
The tender process, begun in 2009, had to be abandoned and will not be rerun.
SWaMP2008 was a joint venture between eight councils - Armagh, Banbridge, Cookstown, Craigavon, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Newry and Mourne, and Omagh.
The £3.1 million was paid by the DoE to run the initiative. SWaMP2008, one of three council waste management groups, is responsible for procuring and delivering the project on behalf of its councils to divert biodegradable municipal waste from landfill.
It invited expressions of interest in its procurement in June 2009. In June this year, SWaMP2008 received a formal challenge to the legality of its revised bidder consortium following the introduction of two new partners to the consortium by the original bidder.
SWaMP concluded that it could not risk incurring the significant costs that would be involved in contesting the challenge with no certainty of success.
DoE minister Alex Attwood said: "There is a need for certainty and avoidance of doubt. In the coming weeks, my focus will be to subject the remaining two procurement exercises being undertaken by councils to robust and ongoing scrutiny to ensure that waste procurement is modelled to serve the needs of the councils in the north, to do so in a way that is fully compliant with European legislation, is affordable, is deliverable and is the necessary and best option for our waste requirements."
A SWaMP2008 spokesman confirmed it is to terminate its procurement contract and said the legal challenge was due to circumstances outside its control.
"As a publicly-funded organisation SWaMP2008 has reluctantly concluded that its interests, and those of its stakeholders, are not best served by engaging in an expensive, lengthy and ultimately uncertain legal process, and consequently the procurement process is to be terminated," he said.