Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (44)

Joan Burton


42 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to undertake a review of his Department’s policy in regard to the hiring of consultants, especially in view of the fact that almost €30 million has been paid out to consultants, since the last general election; the steps in place to ensure value for money in regard to such consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6214/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I regret that the reply given by me in written response to a parliamentary question of 27 January 2004, reference No. 1094/04, caused serious misunderstanding and grossly exaggerated the cost of consultancy services in my Department. I should point out that the figures provided by me in response to that question included, inadvertently and erroneously, not only costs of all consultancy projects initiated by my Department, but also the costs of non-consultancy out-sourcing of certain IT services and software development services, the necessary technical expertise for which is not available in Departments. This wrongly categorised expenditure amounted to €26.4 million, or 90.3%, of the €29.3 million referred to in the written reply.

In fact, this IT and software expenditure does not fit into the category of consultancy described by Department of Finance guidelines on the matter and should more properly have been described as contracted IT services.

Two of the more significant of these IT projects relate to the introduction of the fixed charge processing system, penalty points, and the implementation of the new Government financial management system which will integrate the financial systems for the Department, the Courts Service, the Garda Síochána and the Prison Service.

On the matter generally, my Department follows strict Government public procurement guidelines in relation to engaging consultants and outside contractors for all projects, including IT work, and contracts are awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender received.

A much smaller sum has been spent on consultants engaged by my Department to help carry out research on issues such as the employment of people with disabilities in the public service and the codification of the liquor licensing laws, and to help policy research in a number of areas such as immigration and citizenship, and gender and employment equality.

The small number of projects involving consultants are actively managed by my Department so as to ensure agreed deliverables and outputs are achieved and value for money is obtained.

My Department's policy in regard to the engaging of consultants is that such a course of action is resorted to only when absolutely necessary and that full value for money is derived from all such expenditure.