Britain is investigating allegations of misconduct during bidding for the privatisation of a helicopter search and rescue service, says a newspaper report.
The Financial Times, citing unnamed sources familiar with the negotiations, said concerns over the allegations have led to Royal Bank of Scotland quitting the Soteria consortium — the government’s preferred bidder for the 6 billion pound (US$9.54 billion) contract.
An RBS spokeswoman confirmed the bank had exited the group but declined further comment. Soteria was not immediately reachable, Reuters reports
The consortium was due to take over search and rescue services in Britain from 2012, for 25 years.
The FT said senior government sources told it the concerns related to access to information during the competitive tender, as well as the relationship between a military officer who has since left the forces, and CHC, a Canadian helicopter operator and Soteria member.
RBS’s withdrawal could be fatal for the bid as it would be difficult to find another equity partner, the newspaper cited sources involved in the negotiations as saying.
The consortium includes Sikorsky, part of United Technologies Corp, and French defence company Thales.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said an announcement on the contract had been postponed “for commercially sensitive reasons”.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on any specific aspects in advance of further announcement,” she added.
Britain in December halted negotiations for the contract after the Soteria became aware of an unspecified “possible issue” with the bid.
The reasons behind the suspension were not given at the time, but followed growing domestic concern over the costs of the proposal to demilitarise Britain’s search and rescue fleet.