Furore over 'unfair' tendering process for GPO 1916 exhibit
High fee and lack of information from An Post on EU registration site criticised
Devastation of Sackville Street (O’Connell Street) and Eden Quay, Dublin, during the Easter Rising. Photograph: PA
An exhibition on the 1916 Rising is to be constructed in the General Post Office, Dublin, in time for the 100th anniversary in 2016. However, concern has been expressed at the tendering process adopted by An Post for the project.
The exhibition is likely to be in one of two courtyards in the GPO complex, most likely the large courtyard just behind the public area, to which the public do not currently have access.
“The courtyard is building-locked but it is a good space,” said Anne McHugh of An Post. “What we’re looking at is how it might be accessed by the public and used [later], not just for 1916.”
Several committees, political and academic, have been set up, under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach, to work on how the 1916 commemorations are to be co-ordinated.
“We want to get certain thoughts and positions down on paper so we’re ready by 2016,” said Ms McHugh.
However, this initial search has prompted concern in the museum and exhibition world.
An Post is a semi-State body, and must adhere to open tendering rules, as agreed at EU level. Thus, a fortnight ago, it gave notice on the EU tender website, irl.eu-supply.com, of its intention to create a “1916 commemorative exhibition”.
On it, anyone interested in tendering for the contract to design and create the exhibition is advised to register their interest via a firm named Achilles.
However, few specifics on what is required are given and there is a non-refundable registration of interest fee of €485.
Achilles appears only to be seeking standard company information, including VAT and registration details.
Pat Cooke, a former director of Kilmainham Gaol and currently a lecturer in cultural policy at University College Dublin, is critical of the process. “To have to pay €485 to find out if you are on the starting line is not very open or fair,” he said.
Short on specifics
He criticises the lack of detailed information available to would-be applicants ahead of submitting a tender.
One such potential applicant is Ann Scroope, who runs an exhibition design business from Courtmacsherry. She says that, in 25 years working in her field, she has never come across a process such as that adopted by An Post. “I cannot see how, on the basis of looking at turnover, insurance etc they can make a fully informed decision as to who they will invite to tender. Design is assessed through vastly different criteria.”
Ms McHugh defended the registration process as “very fair and transparent”.