Operational matters and the role of developing commercial strategies for the post office network are a matter for the management and Board of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function. As shareholder, however, I have a strong concern in relation to the ongoing commercial position of the Company and I regularly liaise with the Company in this regard.
An Post has many strengths and has the largest retail presence in the country. I have been supportive of its attempts to diversify its income streams and to win a wider range of commercial contracts offering higher margins. An Post has made much progress towards diversification with its enhanced arrangement with AIB and its agreement with Aviva for the transfer of Aviva Ireland's branch offices personal insurance business to One Direct. More recently the opportunity to pay the local property tax via An Post outlets was secured. An Post has also been selected as the preferred bidder, following a competitive tender process, for the cash element of welfare payments which augurs well for the future of the network. I understand An Post will pitch strongly for the social welfare ePayment business when it is put out to tender. Having invested in the computerisation of all post offices, An Post is well positioned to become the front office provider of choice for Government and financial services sector.
In the context of the public sector transformation agenda I will continue to engage with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to consideration, as appropriate, of the post office network for transactional elements of the business of Government Departments and Agencies and have stressed to my Government colleagues that the network is ideally configured for over the counter transactions. Overall, it is Government policy that An Post remains a strong and viable company, in a position to provide a high quality, nationwide postal service and maintain a nationwide customer focussed network of post offices.