I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 108 together.
The situation in relation to the 66,000 applications to Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, is as follows. Some 22,000 are complete, with some 12,000 either awarded or provisionally awarded and some 10,000 refused. Once awarded, payment is dependent on the verification of attendance by the institution and the submission of bank details by the student. Some 4,420 students have now been paid and SUSI is continuing to make payments on a weekly basis to ensure students can be paid as expeditiously as possible once they have been awarded a grant.
Some 21,000 applications are with SUSI for processing as we speak. The remaining 23,000 applications are awaiting submission of documentation by the students concerned. More than 50% of students in this category have made no response at all to requests by SUSI for the required supporting documentation so it must be assumed that many of these are not planning to pursue their applications any further.
SUSI is aiming to achieve a target of 33,000 awards in total by the end of the year and I expect that target to be met. SUSI is staffed to the level that has been requested and all the necessary resources should be in place to enable it to process applications to completion, subject to all the necessary documentation being in order to enable it to make a decision in each case. This week, a further 50 additional temporary staff have been approved to ensure that all targets are met from this point of view.
SUSI will endeavour to ensure that students who are awarded a maintenance grant will be paid before the end of the year. Some students may not receive their grant until the beginning of January due to the requirements in respect of bank details and verification of attendance, together with the banking restrictions over the holiday period. However, every effort will be made by SUSI to ensure that all successful grant applicants are paid by December.
The Student Support Act 2011 made provision for the appointed awarding authority to outsource particular functions or aspects of the student grant application process where it considered it appropriate to do so, subject to the general superintendence and control of the appointed awarding authority. As part of its overall implementation plan, SUSI went to tender for the document management service. The tender was published in the Official Journal of the European Union using the competitive dialogue process. The preferred bidder was selected on the basis of the marks awarded by the evaluation committee. While a cost-benefit analysis was not specifically carried out prior to the award of the contract, it was considered that outsourcing was an appropriate solution for the document management process. This was on the basis of the cyclical nature of the administration of the student grants, the volume of applications and the associated requirements for documentary evidence within a tight timeframe.
This scalable outsourcing solution is more cost effective as it is resourced by contract staff to deal with particular peaks and troughs in inbound communications over the course of the year. In addition, it provides the necessary IT infrastructure and costly scanning equipment that is required for an operation of this nature. The cost of providing this service in-house would have involved significant investment, including the upgrading of equipment on an ongoing basis and would have had significant staffing and accommodation implications.