A Limerick-based Fine Gael TD has described the hiring of former civil servants as consultants on the Eircode project as “a scandal”, and said he was disgusted they were hired without the jobs being advertised.
Patrick O’Donovan made the comments at yesterday’s hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, where he said the consultants had “won the lotto” when they were awarded the positions outside public procurement guidelines.
Representatives of both the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform also attended the meeting.
The committee discussed aspects of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the introduction of Eircode — including his finding that seven of the consultancy contracts handed out by the Department of Communications were awarded without a competitive process.
The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report estimated that at the time of its publication the consultants would be collectively paid or owed in the region of €620,000.
It found that one consultant, awarded an “all inclusive” contract for €2,000, was paid €38,000 while another awarded a 15-day contract worth €24,000 was paid €51,520 because “additional work” was required.
Procurement rules dictate that the department should have informed the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform of the contracts, however the latter was only informed of two of the seven consultancy jobs.
Mr O’Donovan was equally critical of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s failure to investigate the awarding of the contracts when it became aware of the two jobs appointed outside of the procurement process.
“Is it fair to say that obviously if the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform followed up on it, they didn’t take much notice of you, did they?” he said.
“These people, it’s like they’ve won the lotto.
“You were told of two, that should have been enough of a reason for you to start looking to see if there were others there, which obviously you didn’t do and in the intervening period these, I would call them taxi meters, are out of control. It’s an absolute scandal,” he said.
Mark Griffin, secretary general of the Department of Communications, said that Mr O’Donovan’s descriptions of the consultants as ‘taxi meters’ was “totally and utterly unacceptable”.
Mr O’Donovan said that the taxpayer was equally offended by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report.
“If you take issue with the fact that I might refer to that as a taxi meter or winning the lotto well then I’m sorry for any offence caused, but it doesn’t in any way conceal the fact that this process has not been adhered to under the rules set down by the Department of Public Expenditure,” he said.
Mr O’Donovan also highlighted how one of the consultants was a process auditor “with a skillset in procurement”.
“Even on his own appointment, without competitive tendering, given that he had a background in procurement, should he not have told ye as a person that was getting in excess of €30,000 - ‘Lads ye might have a problem here, ye might be as well off to advertise for me’?” he asked.
“It stinks. It absolutely stinks that people get this sort of work from the inside, having previously worked on the inside, at values in excess of €145,000 and some of them probably in receipt of pensions of that order as well. I think it is absolutely scandalous,” Mr O’Donovan said.
“I am absolutely disgusted by the whole thing to be quite honest about it,” the Fine Gael TD added.
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