Birmingham's oldest company, badge maker Firmin, has gone to war with the Ministry of Defence after nearly 360 years – over a ‘dysfunctional’ tender battle.
The firm, which supplied badges to Lord Nelson’s crew for the Battle of Trafalgar, union and confederate rivals in the American Civil War, and the crew of the Titanic, has fired a broadside at the MoD for alleged illegal procurement practice.
Bosses at the Newtown firm, which dates back to 1655, are furious that a four-year tailoring contract for altering and repairing personnel uniforms at the Clyde Naval Base has been awarded to a Scottish rival.
The Birmingham firm scored comfortably higher in the tender process than the eventually successful bidder, Scottish-based Stirling. But Firmin say the Scots group won the day after offering a cut-price deal.
Firmin bosses have fired off a letter to the MoD calling for the decision to be reversed – and have warned they will mount a legal challenge via a judicial review if necessary.
Firmin chief executive Tim Newnes described the procurement practices of the MoD as ‘dysfunctional and potentially illegal.’
“The MoD published contract award criteria through the regulated procurement process and scored Firmin with 94 per cent but the contract has been awarded to a competitor who scored 86 per cent,’’ he said.
“MoD are misleading the private sector to generate competition that it needs to drive down prices.
“This amounts to ‘Sharp Practice’ and is not consistent with the behaviour one expects from a Government Department. The impact on our business has been crippling. The MoD cannot get their numbers right.
“This has been hanging around since March and it has cost an absolute fortune putting people on this for the last eight months.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The Ministry of Defence works hard to procure the best equipment at the best value to the taxpayer. We are aware of concerns raised by Firmin & Sons and will contact them directly.”