Following my appointment as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, my Department sought a tender to put in place a more strategic communications service to provide advice and assistance to the Department on a range of interactions between the Minister, the public and the media. As the overriding urgency was to put the service in place within a short timescale, my Department invited a single tender from a suitably qualified company to quote for a limited short term assignment, on the basis that competitive tenders would subsequently be sought for a longer term contract.
This contract was entered into on 9 July 2002 for a period of six months. It was extended by one month because, due to an unanticipated extension of the tendering period, the Department was unable to complete the selection process before the expiry of the first contract.
In November 2002 three firms were invited to tender for a longer term communications consultancy contract. The selection process was overseen by a committee made up of a small group of senior officials from my Department. Following assessment of the tenders, the selection committee made a recommendation to me that the tender from the company concerned was the most economically advantageous and on that basis I accepted the recommendation made. A contract for a two year period was awarded to the company with effect from 9 February 2003.
My Department is involved in a wide range of functions which impact both on the general public and a wide range of sectoral interests. Many of the initiatives introduced by my Department, for example, in relation to waste management, have a significant impact on the business and farming communities, public authorities and individuals. It is vital that the changes required by these initiatives are communicated effectively to all target audiences to ensure maximum understanding and buy in. The communications consultancy service provides the cohesive communications and planning strategy necessary for the successful implementation of these initiatives, and a market orientated perspective which would not otherwise have been available to my Department. To date, i.e. since July 2002, consultancy payments made to the company concerned amount to €135,840, after reduction of withholding tax of €33,960, and not including VAT amounting to €35,658.
Question No. 416 answered with QuestionNo. 405.