In the meantime, one of the members of PSC in Richmond, Pamela Hardyment, decided that as her council taxes were being paid to a company about whom she had grave concerns, she would personally take legal action in the first instance against the council should it continue to award contracts to Veolia. A letter was sent from Christian Khan solicitors in London on 25 October asking that the council exercise discretion to exclude Veolia from bidding or renewing all public contracts with immediate effect and in any event in relation to any contract coming up for public procurement.
By virtue of the Public Contract Regulations 2006 a contracting authority may exclude an economic operator from bidding for a contract or may reject any such bid where it is found that the individual or organisation in question has committed ‘an act of grave misconduct in the course of his business or profession (section 23(4)(e).’
Veolia’s parent company is Veolia Environnement, a French multinational, with four divisions - water, waste, management, energy and transport services. In 2005 the divisions adopted Veolia, a single name, and a new logo. Veolia regards its subsidiaries as divisions of itself and significantly its subsidiaries contracts, including those with British authorities, as its own. It states in its own press release ‘The company (Veolia Environnement) won and renewed multiple contracts in its priority development zones, I.e. Shropshire in the UK…in the Environment Services (Waste Management) Division…
Veolia considers itself a single entity which is also clear in its marketing and public corporate structure where it treats itself as a coherent whole. Veolia Transport, a subsidiary of VE, is a leading partner in the City Pass Consortium, a light rail tramway system linking west Jerusalem to illegal Jewish settlements in occupied east Jerusalem. It may have sold its shares in this company but it is still contracted to run the rail system, which from its own adverts for staff, demands Hebrew speakers and personnel who have served in the military, thus cementing a singularly apartheid rail system.
Veolia also runs two bus services serving the same function as the tramway: supporting and consolidating illegal settlements and tying them more closely into Israel. These are services 109 and 110 operated by its local company Connex. They link the settlements by an Apartheid Israeli road on which Palestinians could travel, were they able to pass easily through the numerous checkpoints, and were it affordable.
Veolia continues to support illegal settlements with its waste collection and dumping in the occupied west bank. TMM, a subsidiary of Veolia, owns the Tovlan landfill site near Jericho in the Jordan Valley and observation has shown that waste comes primarily from the numerous illegal settlements in the Jordan Valley. Once again, the numerous checkpoints make it almost impossible for waste to be taken from Palestinian villages and the cost also is a factor.
The Methodist Church in the UK and US have included Veolia on a list of the companies they wish to divest from. That amounts to more than 20 million religious worshippers.
Violations of the Geneva Convention constitute a war crime, i.e. Veolia by its actions as stated above is facilitating Israel’s ‘grave breaches’ of the 4th Geneva convention. Veolia is aiding and abetting on-going war crimes. The tramway constitutes a significant alteration of the infrastructure of the OPT contrary to Hague regulations 1907, part of international law, and thus Veolia is aiding and abetting and facilitating Israel’s breach of the Hague Regulations.
Veolia’s activities constitute misconduct sufficiently grave to warrant the exclusion of its subsidiaries republic contracts by virtue of the Public Contract Regulations 2006 and these arguments were presented to Richmond Council. After some deliberation during which time one must assume they had contact with Veolia, it was decided that after due procurement process, no contract was awarded to Veolia and another company has been chosen for the landscape and ground maintenance contracts, Continental Landscapes, for five years from November 2010.
It seems Richmond chose to ignore the fact that they had not actually abided by the Public Relations Contracts Regulations 2006. Regulation 23 sets out very limited grounds upon which a contracting authority may exclude and economic entity from taking part in any procurement process. ‘ In our view we are afforded a discretion as to whether to exclude economic entities on the grounds of ‘grave misconduct’ which you refer to in your letter. While there is no statutory definition of what constitutes ‘grave misconduct’, in our view we do not believe that Veolia Transport SA’s involvement t in the Jerusalem Light Railway Project can be deemed to constitute ‘serious misconduct’ by Veolia Environmental Services (UK) Plc who constitute a separate legal entity, irrespective of how they wish to market themselves. Therefore while we appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention, in this instance we are unable to comply with your request to eliminate Veolia from any future contracting with the council as based on the existing information that we have this would be discriminatory and in contravention of the provisions of the EU Regulations and Treaty. In any event, upon the expiry of the Veolia contract and following a full procurement exercise, a new bidder has been awarded this contract.’
In light of the above we have to be aware that they have lost a small contract, compared to the vast refuse and recycling collection and street cleaning contracts which are coming up, and for which they no doubt will be considered. We are asking for assurances that Veolia will not be considered for these. Our work is not finished but this is a victory nevertheless, the outcome is what was required and I have no doubt that raising the issue firmly had something to do with the decision.