In her letter, Michelle McILveen said she was aware of recent local press coverage regarding the award of the Belfast Rapid Transit vehicle contract to the Belgium based company Van Hool.
“Given the considerable local interest in this key issue I felt it was important to write to explain the decision,” she said.
The letter continues:-
“In all major procurement competitions, including this one, my Department must adhere to the relevant EU procurement legislation and regulations.
“The tender documentation, which issued in September 2014, clearly specified the type of vehicles required.
“A number of tenders were received and, as I recently announced, the contract was awarded to Van Hool, supported locally by Roads Trucks Ltd of Larne.
“Their successful tender will provide a vehicle which fully meets the Belfast Rapid Transit vehicle specification and the associated delivery timescales to allow this new transformational public transport system to become operational in September 2018.
“Wrightbus submitted two tenders. The first ‘innovative’ bid did not meet the specification in the tender documentation and was therefore eliminated from the process.
“The second tender met the specifications and was fully considered against set criteria.
“However, that bid was more expensive than the successful bid and could not be delivered to meet the required timetable.
“My Department has engaged with Wrightbus throughout development of the rapid transit project and the vehicle procurement project.
“I recently met with the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Wright Group, Mr Mark Nodder, to discuss the rationale behind the decision and personally express my disappointment that Wrightbus missed out on this major contract. The fact remains, that all such contracts must be awarded on merit and in line with current procurement regulations.”