My Department has engaged external services to carry out independent assessments and/or investigations into protected disclosures received in the Department since 2018. The external services are primarily drawn from procurement frameworks put in place by the Office of Government Procurement. Prior to this the assessment/investigation of disclosures was carried out by the Department's Internal Audit Unit.
The independent assessment determines whether the details in the disclosure meet the specific criteria to be investigated as a Protected Disclosure as set out in the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. Where the requirements are met, the disclosure will be issued to the external investigator who will carry out an independent investigation into all or elements of the disclosure. This ensures that there is an independent and transparent process in place to evaluate disclosures received in the Department. There is regular communication with the discloser throughout the process, and the maintenance of confidentiality is a condition of the service engagement.
I am informed that 8 disclosures have been referred for assessment/investigation to 5 external service providers. The total cost for these services came to €187,023 in 2018 and 2019 to date. The 5 service providers who were engaged to carry out assessment/investigation work in relation to disclosures received in the Department and the Irish Prison Service are as follows: McCann Fitzgerald, Athru Solutions, RSM Ireland, Mazars and Raise a Concern.
Where the Department receives disclosures from past or serving members of An Garda Síochána (as opposed to members of staff of the Department), the disclosures received are issued to a panel of counsel who advise my Department on how the disclosure should be dealt with. The panel was set up in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Attorney General. 17 cases have been examined by members of the panel at a total cost of €3,690. Two cases related to An Garda Síochána were separately examined at a total cost of €14,982.82.