NSA expresses concern over database tender

THE National Sheep Association (NSA) has expressed concern at Defra’s handling of the tender process to deliver an electronic movement reporting system and database for sheep, goats, and deer in England.

Defra’s decision, announced on Thursday, to select Irish company SouthWestern Business Process Services (UK) came as a surprise for some within the sheep sector.

The Clonakilty-based company was selected above both NLMD, the Somerset-based industry owned company which provides a database and tracing services for the livestock industry, and NMR, which also provides livestock identification and database services in Britain, along its milk recording service.   

Defra said it was selected in an ‘open and transparent procurement competition’ which assessed the technical merits and affordability of each bidder’s proposals.

Following the announcement there is a mandatory period of 10 days before the contract is formally awarded to allow unsuccessful bidders to ‘seek further clarifications and a remedy if they are dissatisfied with the procurement process’.

The NSA said the process left a number of questions to be answered about how the database will operate. 

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said the association was ‘in complete support of an electronic database’ and said getting the right system in place across the UK was ‘absolutely vital for the sheep sector’.

“However, we were under the impression Defra would discuss the decision with industry before making the announcement, and the fact this hasn’t happened means we do not know the finer details about vital issues, including data transfer between devolved administrations, assurances that no costs will be passed to industry, and information governance by industry,” he said.

“This does raise questions for us about how Defra will work with industry as the database is developed.”

The new system, which is expected to be up and running by April 2014, will replace the current paper-based Animal Movements Licensing System (AMLS) for movement controls.

Defra said it would reduce the burden on farmers, making it simpler to input movement data and quicker for the authorities to access information to track movements, saving farmers £560,000 and the taxpayer £6.8million over the next 10 years.

Farmers will have the option of continuing with paper records, which they will send to SouthWestern rather than their local authority.

The adoption of electronic movement reporting systems for sheep and other species was recommended by the Richard Macdonald Farming Regulation Task Force in 2011.

Readers' comments (2)

  • So DEFRA have to get the ok from the NSA says Phil Stocker. There has been a lenghy process of discussion when Mr. Stocker and others had the opportunity of raising concerns. I am sure DEFRA have looked carefully at all the bids and based their award on capability and finacial reasoning. It will be a sad day when unions and association have the final say in contract awards

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  • An effective database has the potential to unravel many of the complex and illogical regulations that presently exist and at the same time radically improving disease control.
    I would suggest that the industry needs to be involved in the process to ensure it helps the industry move forward and not just fulfilling a statutory role.
    The database needs to be easy to use and accurate as it will be used for cross compliance enforcement.
    Having a contract that is not fit for the industry it is to serve will be a disaster for our industry and could compromise our export markets.

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