Based on feedback from members of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), the Center for Defense Investment (RKIK) is set to replace some of the low calorie items in its food packages with more nutritious ones. A new call for tenders to produce the food packages will be announced next year.
365JP, the company that finished as runner-up in the tender competition to produce the EDF's food packages, recently critized the most recent batch on the grounds that they do not meet the clearly specified requirements outline during the tender process.
Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) told ERR radio, that he had asked the RKIK to carry out a follow-up check and, if necessary, an additional audit.
"If there is a need to make changes to the activities of the Center for Defense Investment (RKIK), then make the appropriate changes," Pevkur said. "If it is necessary to call the contractors to order in any way, then call them to order. I know that there will be a new public tender for the food packages in the second half of this year, so there will be new packages next year. These are the actions that I have been discussing with the head of the RKIK," the minister added.
Agne Silde, portfolio manager for catering services at the RKIK said, that the RKIK carries out regular compliance checks on its procurements and that the latest batch is no exception. "If we find any shortcomings during the compliance checks, we will commission an audit or an expert opinion. We have now also begun a follow-up check. However, at this stage it is too early to say what the results of that will be," Silde said.
Silde added, that the RKIK plans to launch a new call for tenders in the first half of 2024. "In the new tender, we will take into account the feedback we have received from the soldiers as well as the needs and capacity for the storage of the supplies," Silde said.
ERR asked both Pevkur and Silde whether the terms of the tender could be changed to ensure more Estonian products are included in the food packages.
"That's up to the procurement specialists. The minister is certainly not going to get involved [with that]. After all, the aim is to make sure that our soldiers are well fed, and I know that during the period of the contract, as a result of the RKIK's own feedback and the surveys that have been carried out, certain components have been changed to make the food better. However, the minister is definitely not going to go into it, in terms of what is included there. That is still the role of the food experts and the RKIK has the ability to do that," Pevkur replied.
According to Silde, the RKIK has been working on a daily basis to develop the food packages in line with the general food market, both in Estonia and Europe more broadly. "We always invite Estonian food producers to participate in the tenders, but we cannot restrict the competition between Estonian and European food producers. On the other hand, we have always involved domestic producers at the market research phase," said Silde.
Silde added, that ahead of the next tender, the contents of the food packages have been modified, in response to feedback from the EDF.
"The food packages will contain both main courses and side dishes, which could be either sweet and savory snacks or drinks and so on. In general, the calorific range of the packs is between 1,200 and 1,600. Based on user feedback, we have further developed the packs by replacing some of the products, which may result in lower calorific ranges in some individual packs," Silde explained.
"We have reviewed a range of main courses, pâtés, snacks and have changed brands and manufacturers within the product range. For example, we have changed the pork main course to a beef main course," said Silde.
Editor: Michael Cole