Riigikogu defence committee not commenting on defence procurement in future

Chair of Riigikogu national defence committee Hannes Hanso (SDE).
Chair of Riigikogu national defence committee Hannes Hanso (SDE). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Riigikogu's national defence committee has said it will not be commenting to the media on Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) tenders for arms, following the use of their comments by commercial arms manufacturers in contesting tenders.

A large-scale procurement of new firearms was hit with a setback on Thursday after the Ministry of Finance's extrajudicial Public Procurement Review Committee annulled a decision awarding the contract to US arms manufacturer Lewis Machine & Tool Company (LMT). LMT had been awarded the tender, which is now held up following complaints raised by a competitor company, Sig Sauer Inc., which had listed a total of 26 breaches in the awarding of the contract to LMT, most significantly the failure of automatic firearm's stock and red dot sight during drop tests.

The stock and red dot sights had broken, when dropped from a height of 1.5m, it was claimed by an EDF member, something not recorded in test protocols, according to a report in daily Postimees.

Committee's comments had been taken on board by Sig Sauer Inc.

"We asked a lot of questions, received a lot of answers, but we have an agreement between the members of the committee that we will issue no more comments on these topics to the media,'' Hannes Hanso (SDE), chair of the national defence committee told BNS.

''We acknowledged the information that we received and that is as much as I can say as a response," Mr Hanso continued.

When pressed on whether the arguments presented by Sig Sauer Inc., which was also bidding in the same tender, arose from stances taken my national defence committee members and were also a factor, Mr Hanso replied "essentially yes, you are right,'' according to BNS.

Mr Hanso added that the national defence committee has no procedural or decisive competence or role as such in these matters.

To be kept within four walls of committee rooms in future

"There were people who wanted to ask questions, and this is why the committee decided to convene a meeting in this format, but the conversations here, we have agreed ‒ at least between members of the national defense committee ‒ will remain within the walls of the committee," Mr Hanso said.

Sig Sauer Inc.'s complaints were upheld by the Estonian public procurement dispute settlement committee on Thursday.

The EDF was due to purchase some 16,000 automatic firearms, along with additional equipment, from LMT for £22 million. In addition, the contract facilitated additional purchases of weapons to 2026.

The dispute settlement committee decided to annul the decision awarding LMT the contract, since the decision-making protocol of the on-site verification its appendixes contained shortcomings.

LMT lowest bidder

In its challenge, Sig Sauer Inc. cited the hearing of the Riigikogu's national defense committee, where representatives of the EDF, the Ministry of Defense and the Estonian Centre for Defence Investment (ECDI) had, as far as the arms manufacturer was aware, confirmed to the committee members that the red dot sight, rifle butt, magazines and gun straps would be replaced with good-quality US products. The dispute settlement committee decided this aspect in favor of the procurer.

Madis Milling (Reform) of the defence committee told ERR at the end of last year that he had received information regarding the possible problems with the firearms supplied by LMT.

According to Postimees, the LMT offer was the cheapest from three manufacturers at €22.7. Sig Sauer Inc.'s offer came in at €27.6 million, with Heckler & Koch asking for €45.5 million.

LMT can contest the decision of the dispute settlement committee in an administrative court within 14 days, it is reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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