Lisnagelvin Leisure Center is due to be put on the market for the second time after the £ 550,000 sale of the building was dropped due to legal issues.
Confidential documents seen by the Belfast Telegraph will be presented to members of the Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee today.
The documents explain why the sale collapsed in July 2021 and that the board sought expert legal advice to review its procurement processes to avoid similar difficulties in the future.
Last year, discount store Home Bargains came out on top with an offer of £ 550,000.99.
The difference between the winning bid and the runner-up bid for a health and wellness center was only 99 pence.
A well-placed source involved in the bidding process said she believed the procurement exercise was “too opaque”.
Minutes from previous confidential meetings show that Rory Farrell of the SDLP expressed “shock” that committee members were not made aware of the difference between the two offers.
UUP’s Darren Guy said the board had “prioritized the economic potential of applications.”
He said he had “missed an opportunity” by not keeping it as a recreation center, a view he felt was supported by the public.
Aontu’s Emmet Doyle also shared his “frustration” at learning about the 99p difference through the media.
He said elected officials had not received relevant information and that this should not happen again.
Shaun Harkin of People Before Profit described it as a ‘public policy issue’
The Northern Ireland Audit Office has said it will follow up on the matter as part of its 2021/22 audit of the board’s accounts.
In 2017, the municipality acquired the land previously occupied by the Lisnagelvin leisure center.
A value of £ 600,000 has been placed at the site, with demolition estimated at £ 100,000.
It was put out to tender with sought-after bids in the order of £ 500,000.
By the close of the submission process in February 2021, seven offers had been received.
Emphasis was placed on projects making “a positive contribution to the local economy and the immediate region”, as well as job creation and economic sustainability.
The report to be presented today reveals that the council’s agents have sought legal advice on whether the two highest bids should resubmit the financial bids after the competition closes because they had qualitative scores. identical and their offers were separated by only 99p.
It was concluded that inviting new bids would be contrary to the framework of public procurement and that the award of the contract was legal.
However, a legal challenge was brought by the second ranked bidder.
The board decided the challenge was “not entirely without merit” and halted the sale because it would have to devote significant resources to its defense.
The process has been redesigned to maximize the site’s economic potential and promote job creation opportunities.
The council said no legal proceedings had been initiated on the matter and no investigation was underway.
Home Bargains has been approached for comment.