MINISTER FOR THE Environment Alan Kelly “has serious questions to answer” over his meeting last December with a company that was subsequently the most successful bidder in a state tender.
That’s according to Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, who last night raised the controversy during a Dáil debate on the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Agency.
He claimed “very serious irregularities occurred,” and said Kelly may have taken part in a violation of the rules over state procurement.
At the heart of this is a meeting that took place between Minister Kelly, an official from the Department and Labour TD Brendan Ryan and two members of the company Task Limited, that was to go on to be the most successful bidder.
This meeting happened just days after the deadline for tenders had ended and while Pobal, an agency under the Minister’s Department, were assessing the tenders.
The CEO of that company [Gerard Bunting] is suggested to be a supporter of Deputy Ryan.
In response, Brendan Ryan told TheJournal.ie:
I honestly do not know who Mr Bunting votes for. If the suggestion is that he is a financial supporter of mine, I can unequivocally say that I have never received any such support from Mr Bunting.
He is a constituent of mine and that is the extent of our relationship.
The tender related to the Seniors Alert Scheme, which arranged for the provision of alarm systems to elderly people throughout the country.
Murphy went on to say:
The existence of such a meeting alone would appear to be a clear breach of the procurement rules. The relevant tender rules in Section 6.7 clearly stated that canvassing shall disqualify.
Yet the company that does appear to have attempted, at least, to canvass went on to become the most successful bidder.
In response to parliamentary questions last week, Minister of State Ann Phelan told the Dublin Southwest TD that Kelly didn’t know ahead of time that Ryan would be bringing two representatives of the company to the meeting on 10 December, 2014.
Those representatives were Bunting and Bernadette Dunne, also of Task.
No minutes were taken, according to Phelan, because the meeting was “of brief duration.”
While it was not indicated that any other people would be attending the meeting, Deputy Ryan was, in fact, accompanied by two people who were part of a company that had bid in the tender process…
I am advised [the meeting] was ultimately…of brief duration in respect of which minutes were not considered necessary.
I am satisfied that this process was conducted in a robust manner consistent with EU and National Procurement Guidelines.
The Department of the Environment has also said that the minister was not aware that the two Task representatives would be there, adding that the meeting was requested by Deputy Ryan.
Last night, Deputy Murphy pointed out that Pobal, the agency overseeing the tender, had responded to an FOI request by the Sunday Times.
This response revealed that Minister Kelly had discussed details of the tender process, in the aftermath of his meeting with Task (whose registered company name is Task Community Care).
“So how come nothing was discussed at the meeting and yet after it the Minister felt prompted to raise these very particular points?,” asks Murphy.
The department states that Minister Kelly:
made it very clear to the delegation present that the tendering process was solely the role of Pobal.
Two days after the meeting involving Kelly and Ryan, the tender process was temporarily halted. The department says this pause was to ensure that the meeting did not affect the procurement process.
Legal advice was taken and it determined that the meeting had not affected the integrity of the procurement process. The process was found to be compliant with national and EU guidelines and regulations, according to the department.
The process was therefore resumed with Pobal ultimately choosing Task as the successful bidder.
“Having considered the matter fully and taken advice, the process was found to be robust and compliant and it was agreed that Pobal would proceed with the tender process and bring it to a conclusion,” the Department of the Environment said in a statement.
Additional reporting by Rónán Duffy.
Deputy Murphy’s comments were made under parliamentary privilege. Comments for this article are closed.