Finland Keeps Vendors on Edge With Renewal of EUR 37.5m Interpretation Contract

Asylum applications in Finland plummeted in the last 12 months. In 2016, some 5,600 asylum seekers submitted applications to the Finnish government — an 83% drop from the 32,500 applicants in 2015. Still, the government is proceeding with the renewal of a major interpretation contract worth EUR 37.5m for over-the-phone (remote) and on-site interpretation.

Overseeing the EUR 37.5m call for tender is government procurement unit Hansel, which published an announcement in December 2016. Slator spoke to a source familiar with the tender process, who said it actually began in September 2016.

According to the source, Hansel withdrew the tender a couple of times. And then, in December, as prospective contractors were awaiting a final decision, Hansel all of a sudden canceled the tender.

As the existing contract from 2013 was running out on December 31, 2016, Hansel had to ask the incumbents under the existing contract for an extension, the source told Slator, adding that the bidders for the renewal hope to have a decision by March 2017.

The providers under the existing framework include Nordic language industry giant Semantix, which named a new Managing Director for its Finnish subsidiary in March, and Helsingin Tulkkipalvelut, which was acquired by Norway’s Hero Tolk in August and has since rebranded to Hero Tolk Oy (“Oy” signifying a limited company in Finland). Other providers include local vendor Suomen Tulkkipiste Oy, and a few regional interpretation centers.

The contract is set up as a framework agreement (i.e., nothing is assured and winning contractors only get paid as the orders come in). If all goes according to plan this time around, the agreement will enter into force from April 2017 and run for two years.

The EUR 37.5m framework agreement is divided between remote interpretation nationwide (EUR 11m) and on-site interpretation around the Finnish metropolitan area (approximately EUR 14m), Oulu and Tornio (EUR 5.5m), with the balance distributed among a dozen municipalities.

For an example of the languages covered by government-procured interpretation in Finland, we looked at a document that shows the number of hours booked for remote interpreting. The top language was Arabic (11,505 hours), followed by Somali (2,872 hours), and Dari (2,807 hours).