City of Helsinki Seeks up to Five Providers for EUR 15.5M Interpreting Contract

Helsinki Health Care and Social Services Interpreting

The city of Helsinki, Finland’s capital, is looking for a few interpreting providers — up to five, in fact. On February 8, 2023, a call for tenders went live for a framework agreement worth EUR 15.5m (USD 16.4m).

The contract’s first lot, covering pre-booked on-site and remote interpreting, will be awarded to up to three providers in a “cascade” set-up, with a primary service provider and two alternatives. Up to two providers will be selected for the second lot, which deals with on-demand remote interpreting. 

Following a March 13, 2023 deadline for applications, both lots will go into effect on May 1, 2023, and last until April 30, 2025, with two possible year-long extensions. Applications must be submitted in Finnish.

Application materials explain that about 80% of the interpreting services used by the City of Helsinki take place in social and health service settings, including hospitals, schools, and immigration centers. While most of the 70,000 annual interpreting encounters deal with Finnish and a foreign language, they sometimes require Swedish in place of Finnish.

Pre-booked interpreting can take place on-site or remotely, while on-demand interpreting — intended to be used in situations when an unexpected and urgent need for interpreting cannot be met quickly enough by other means — must be available 24/7 via a remote system that allows for both telephonic and video remote interpreting, and operate on both Android and iOS.

According to the request for tenders, about 86% of interpreting for the City of Helsinki is performed remotely.

Thirty-Eight Language Pairs, Minimum

The volume of interpreting expected to be used varies by mode and by languages, which fall into different “price groups” (i.e., providers will charge the same rate for interpreting languages within the same price group).

Price Group 1 covers Finnish interpretation into and from Arabic, Somali, Russian, Dari, Farsi, Sorani, English, Bengali, Mandarin, Turkish, French, Albanian, Thai, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Romanian.

Price Group 2 languages are Estonian, Bulgarian, Kurmanji, Pashto, Nepali, Urdu, Tigrinya, Portuguese, Lingala, Amharic, Tamil, and Badini.

Providers must offer Finnish interpretation for at least nine of the following Price Group 3 languages, plus Ukrainian, which is required: Swahili, Greek, Kinyarwanda, Japanese, Uyghur, Punjabi, Tagalog, Hindi, Italian, Bosnian, German, Burmese, Swedish, Polish, Serbian, Azeri, Yoruba, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Uzbek, Lao, Hungarian, Czech, Latvian, and Cantonese.

The City of Helsinki expects to purchase 13,000 hours of on-site interpreting for Price Group 1 languages; 400 hours for Price Group 2 languages; and for Price Group 3 languages, 220 hours.

Expected volumes for pre-booked remote interpretation (which is booked and charged in half-hour increments) range from 29,000 hours (Price Group 1) to 2,500 hours (Price Group 2) to 650 hours (Price Group 3).

Bidders must also offer “message interpreting,” whereby interpreters call someone to convey a message word for word. Helsinki anticipated 50 announcements for Price Group 1 languages, 20 for Price Group 2, and 10 for Price Group 3.

Estimates for on-demand interpreting, charged in 10-minute increments, show perhaps the greatest disparity across Price Groups, with about 5,830 hours for Price Group 1 languages versus 200 and 70 hours for Price Groups 2 and 3, respectively.

In general, unless there is no other option, interpretation must be direct (i.e., take place without the use of a relay language).

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