Court of Appeal overturns ruling on interpreters contract

High Court had lifted an automatic suspension on the awarding of State contract

The Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court’s decision to lift an automatic suspension on the awarding of a contract for the supply of interpreters. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

The Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court’s decision to lift an automatic suspension on the awarding of a contract for the supply of interpreters. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

The Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court’s decision to lift an automatic suspension on the awarding of a contract for the supply of interpreters to the State’s immigration service and Legal Aid Board.

The suspension came into effect after a company which supplied interpreters for these services for several years, Word Perfect Translation Service Ltd, brought a legal action against the Minister for Public Expenditure challenging the integrity of the award process, which saw a firm named Translation.ie win the contract.

The Minister applied to have the suspension lifted and last month the High Court’s Judge Seamus Noonan granted an order doing so.

Judge Gerard Hogan, in a unanimous decision on behalf of the three-judge Court of Appeal, overturned the High Court ruling on Wednesday.

He said damages would not be an adequate remedy for Word Perfect should it win its main challenge to the procurement process.

Mr Justice Hogan said that if Word Perfect was to lose this business, there appeared to be little doubt but that it would hamper its ability to retain specialist employees who can translate rare languages such as Farsi, Albanian and Ga.

The company is arguing that more than 100 interpreters would become redundant and the company would go out of business if it loses the contract.

Mr Justice Hogan said the concern may have been raised somewhat belatedly by Word Perfect’s director Agim Gashi, but there must be “a real risk of significant reputational damage to the company which might possibly prove to be terminal”.

Effective remedy

The fact that damages have not been shown to be an adequate remedy should Word Perfect win its main case had an important and perhaps even a decisive impact on the appeal, he said. The right to an effective remedy is a constitutional fundamental, he added.

In this case, the adherence to a “standstill clause”, whereby the awarding of the contract is put on hold pending the legal proceedings, is in reality the only real remedy Word Perfect has, he said.

Mr Justice Hogan said it was a condition of the Court of Appeal’s decision that there would be an undertaking by Word Perfect to prosecute its main proceedings in the High Court without any further delay.

Word Perfect was unsuccessful in its tender under a supplemental request for tenders for a 12-month contract in 2016.

After it indicated it intended to bring a legal challenge to that process, the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) decided the process was flawed and cancelled it.

The OGP then started a new supplemental request process and again Word Perfect was unsuccessful, with Translation.ie emerging as the preferred bidder.