The Freight Transport Association of Ireland says it is concerned that there may be a conflict of interest in the awarding of a contract to establish whether Eircode is fit for purpose to the same consultants that advised the State on the postcode’s introduction.
On December 23 last the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources published a request for tender for the Eircode oversight contract, which was awarded to PA Consultants.
The right for tender included a requirement for an evaluation of the “postcode and postcode address database ( PAD) design to ensure it is fit for purpose”.
PA Consultants has worked on the postcode project since 2006, when the National Postcodes Project Board stated that it had hired the company to “undertake the commercial elements of the work programme. The specific deliverables of this work element were: a cost benefit assessment, a structural design, and an implementation plan.”
The FTAI last week called on Communications Minister Alex White to consent to submitting Eircode to independent scrutiny, and to communicate this consent by 5pm yesterday. That deadline passed without any commitment from the minister.
The matter had been raised at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications last month, when Sligo–North Leitrim TD Michael Colreavy (SF) asked Department of Communications assistant secretary Eamonn Molloy if there was a potential conflict of interest.
“We are dealing with the implementation of what is involved under the contract. The issue is whether we are delivering what we are supposed to deliver under the contract.
“PA brings very good actuarial skills to the table and I am very happy to stand over the appointment which was made through open procurement by the individual members see sitting before them.
“If there is an issue, there is an issue, but it was a good appointment which was not compromised in any way and was of people with very good skills who were qualified to do the job,” Mr Molloy told the committee.
“There is a slight difference. We are dealing with the question of whether delivery under the contract is proceeding. That is different from saying whether the system is great or not so great. Certain things must be delivered under a contract. We all operate in an environment in which jobs are done transparently. If a job is not done transparently, it would be a very foolish appointment,” he said.
Neil McDonnell, general manager of the FTAI, said that the complaint will be filed with the Ombudsman next week, and that its specific point of detail would centre on the tender issued last year.
The FTAI has previously expressed its reservations regarding the design and structure of Eircodes.
Earlier this week, however, John Touhy, CEO of the Nightline delivery group, told the joint Oireachtas committee on transport and communications that the €27m system would “revolutionise how we deal with customers in rural areas”.