Arms manufacturer Sig Sauer Inc. has seen its appeal over the procurement of arms for the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), contracted out to a rival company, overturned.
The public procurement dispute review committee rejected the Sig Sauer appeal, over the purchase of automatic rifles by the Estonian Center for Defense Investment (ECDI), in a contract awarded to US arms manufacturer Lewis Machine & Tool Company (LMT).
The appeal was the second time Sig Sauer Inc., also of the US, had contested the deal.
LMT's orginal contract was withdrawn following Sig Sauer Inc.'s protest revolving around quality concerns with the LMT weapons, but LMT was later reinstated.
One of several bidders
The June 2017 ECDI procurement was made for 5.56mm and 7.62mm automatic arms contracts for the EDF) 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades.
Fourteen companies originally came forward, whittled down to four: Sig Sauer Inc., LMT, Heckler and Koch, and another US firm, Patriot Ordnance Factory.
Patriot Ordnance dropped out of the race early on, and LMT was chosen mainly on the basis of price (it was the cheapest offer at €22.7 million, compared with €27.6 from Sig Sauer and H&K's €45.5 million) in December 2018. The ECDI said at the time there were no significant performance differences between the three companies' firearms.
However, Sig Sauer Inc. stated that on the contrary, there were several issues with LMT, both as a company in no honouring previous procurements, and of its weapons, which reportedly failed a ''drop test''.
Taken away from LMT, given back again
The drop test involved weapons being dropped from a height of 1.5 m, in test conditions; the LMT stocks and red dot sights reportedly broke, according to daily Postimees.
Bristol Trust, Estonian representative of Sig Sauer Inc. (US), contested the awarding the procurement to LMT on December 18, 2018, and on January 17 this year, the procurement committee invalidated the LMT award.
However, LMT appealed and on providing further information saw its position as successful bidder reinstated on February 8. Additionally, doubts arose over the conduct of the drop test, namely that it was not clear whether a butt and a red dot sight were even attached to the weapon during the test, and what damage or impairment these components sustained during the testing of the weapon. Further issues surrounded whether the weapons were tested with their original Magpul and Blackhawk straps installed.
Second Sig appeal rejected
Sig Sauer Inc. appealed the LMT award a second time in late February, but the public procurement dispute review committee ruled on Monday that the appeal was to be rejected, though this time it only focussed on the drop test issue noted above.
"The dispute review committee could not substantively assess the other claims of the requester, since these were submitted not on time or had been submitted in connection with issues that were solved already in the previous decision of the review committee, which has taken effect,'' said member of the review committee, Mart Parind, in a press release.
''In addition, several suspicions were voiced in the review proceeding which did not go beyond hearsay, whereas the review committee can only handle specific and substantiated requests for review," he continued.
The review committee arrived at the conclusion that, in accordance with the procurement documents, the quality of the gun stock and red dot sight do not have to be assessed within the framework of a drop test.
Can still be contested
"In accordance with the procurement documents, the quality of the stock and the red dot sight have to be assessed on the basis of different factors such as visual observation, test shooting and other tests of non-damaging nature. Since under law, in assessing the conformity of the tender offer, we have to proceed strictly from the provisions of the procurement documents, the fact that the gun stock and red dot sight, left on the weapon for the time when the drop test was performed, were broken, [was not relevant]," Mr Parind went on.
Sig Sauer Inc. and its Estonian representative Bristol Trust can still contest the review committee decision with the Tallinn Administrative Court, no later than 21 March.
According to the planned tender agreement, the ECDI is to buy approximately 11,000 automatic firearms over the period 2019-2021, with an option for additional purchases of up to 18,000 automatic rifles down to 2024, it is reported.
Formed in 1976 as a partnership of SIG (Schweizerische Inustrie Gesellschaft) of Switzerland and JP Sauer & Sohn (Germany), Sig Sauer Gmbh sold its firearms subsidiary to L&O Holdings of Germany in 2000, when it was renamed Swiss Arms (a Sig Sauer Gmbh still remains).
A separate company was founded in the US in 1985 and renamed Sig Sauer Inc. in 2007; the Swiss and US Sig Sauer companies have been organisationally separate since 2000; it is the latter which has been involved in the disputed ECDI procurement.
Editor: Andrew Whyte