Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Ceisteanna (163)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

163. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the amount spent on purchasing mobile telephones for staff within her Department for work-related business in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by grade; if her Department has a contract with a mobile telephone company (details supplied) to supply mobile telephones if needed; if so, the name of the company; the date on which the contract for the supply of mobile telephones to her Department is next due to expire; and the robust steps taken to ensure that the costs incurred on work related telephones are the best value for the taxpayer. [47914/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Many of the staff in my Department and its Offices carry out duties which regularly require them to work away from their office location.  It is imperative that those staff are provided with technologies that allow them to be as efficient outside of the office as they would when at their desks.  In addition, the use of mobile technologies has allowed staff of my Department to carry out tasks while away from the office which traditionally could not be completed until they returned to their desks and this in turn allows their office-based colleagues to be more efficient.

The amount spent on purchasing mobile phones for staff within my Department and its Offices is shown in the following table.  A significant project to upgrade older mobile phones was undertaken recently to replace older devices which were becoming unfit for purpose and for which the most up to date operating system and security patches were becoming unavailable.  This is reflected in the cost figures for 2019 to date.  Costs for 2020 are expected to return to levels comparable with previous years.

2016 

 2017

 2018

 2019 to date

€15,972.80

 €15,678.45

 €21,023.10

 €123,629.65

Mobile phones are often bought in batches rather than individually for each user and therefore my Department does not have full historical records of costs per grade for each of those years.  However, records show the number of mobile phones currently assigned to staff per grade are as follows:

Grade

No. of mobile phones assigned

Accountant

2

Administrative Assistant

5

Assistant Principal

110

Assistant Secretary

7

Chairman

1

Chief Operations Officer

1

Clerical Officer

1

Deputy Chairman

4

Deputy Head Services Officer

1

Detective Garda (ODCE)

2

Detective Sergeant (ODCE)

2

Executive Officer

49

Forensic Accountant

4

Head Services Officer

1

Higher Executive Officer

40

Legal Advisor

4

Member - Labour Court

7

Minister

3

Ministers Driver

2

Principal Officer

47

Secretary General

1

Service Officer

7

Solicitor

2

Special Advisor

3

Total

306

* The majority of mobile phones assigned to Executive Officer and Higher Executive Officer grades are assigned to Workplace Relations Commission Field Operatives which involves working a large part of their time outside of the office environment.

My Department recently completed a competitive procurement process under the ‘Framework Agreement for the provision of Mobile Voice and Data Communications and Associated Products and Services’ operated by the Office of Government Procurement.  Following that process a contract was awarded to Vodafone for two years up to August 2021 with an option to extend the contract for a further period of two years up to August 2023.  Choosing the most cost-effective voice, text and data bundles was a significant element considered in the award of this contract.

In addition to choosing the most cost-effective voice, text and data bundles, my Department maintains a number of policies and procedures to ensure that ongoing costs are kept to a minimum and that achieve best value for the taxpayer.  These include:

- Requiring a valid written business case, approved at Assistant Secretary level, for all grades below Principal Officer who request the use of a business mobile phone.

- Requiring all staff who are assigned a smart phone to sign an “iDevice Policy”, which sets out, among other things, instructions on how best to minimise usage costs e.g. staff are reminded to connect to local free Wi-Fi connectivity whenever possible.

- Enforcing mobile data roaming caps.

- The regular checking of mobile bills by admin staff.