I propose to take Questions Nos. 311 and 313 together.
The Irish Prison Service, IPS, staffing and operations review process identified the stores function within prisons as an area where there was scope for considerable rationalisation, with attendant cost savings. Accordingly, consultants were appointed on a short-term basis to carry out a comprehensive review of the stores function in the Prison Service and to indicate how available resources could be used in a more cost effective manner.
In July 2002, the consultants referred to by the Deputy were engaged to conduct a review of the storage function in the Prison Service at a cost of €45,000, inclusive of VAT and expenses. Officials met with these consultants on various dates between June 2002 and May 2003. The consultants were also in contact with IPS staff in the various institutions during this time as part of the information gathering phase of the operation.
The recommendations and findings of the consultants' report are currently being considered. Elements of this project are heavily dependent on the outcome of the current change negotiations between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers' Association. These issues will be the subject of detailed discussions with the staff side as the process evolves.
In addition, in relation to the possible privatisation of the provision of prisoner transport and escort services, a number of telephone inquiries have been received regarding the prior information notice placed in the EU Journal at the start of this year.