Government routinely seeks external advice


Mark Brennock gives examples of some of the 2,983 consultants' reports and contracts which have been commissioned by this Government since 1998.

The Department of Communications and the Marine has averaged about one report, consultancy or PR contract per week, at a cost of some €12 million since 1998. The Department of Education does about one a fortnight.

While the civil service acknowledges that it does not have specialised skills in certain areas, the volume of consultants' reports and contracts, carried out by private-sector staff earning far in excess of what public servants are paid, is staggering.

Out of 3,000 such reports, it is possible only to select some examples to give a flavour of the breadth of policy areas in which the Government now routinely calls for external advice.

Larger commissions from the Department of Education included €114,578 last year to Carr Communications for "advice, support and assistance for the Your Education System (YES) process" and €114,300 in 2003 to Talbot Associates for a review of the supply-teacher scheme.

Farrell Grant Sparks received €285,162 in 2001 for advice on PPP projects to revamp Cork School of Music, and in relation to five post-primary schools.

Deloitte and Touche received €336,480.59 in 2001 for advice in relation to the National Maritime College Public Private Partnership project in 2001; €119,185 in 2002 for the same project; and a further €72,863.78 in 2003.

Deloitte and Touche also received €32,349.12 in 1999 for an "organisational review of the department" and €44,712.56 the following year, also for an "organisational review". The company also features significantly among the information technology contracts awarded by the Department of Enterprise and Employment. In 2004 it received €136,566 in relation to IT systems for the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; €51,545 for three separate projects in 2003; €35,337 in 2002 for consultancy assistance concerning a financial management system; €1.39 million in 2001 in relation to various projects; €455,007 in 2000; €559,900 in 1999; and €87,000 in 1998.

This department also paid a significant number of outside lawyers for legal advice on issues, with these costs ranging from several hundred euro to tens of thousands. More substantial payments included €268,415 to PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2004 for "accountancy case work"; €64,396 to Tom Walsh in 2003 for a review of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1989; €69,908 to Scan Image Services Ireland Ltd for scanning documentation for a legal action; €145,200 for a study into the insurance industry to Europe economics; €38,192 in 2002 and €44,033 in 2003 to Caden Communications for communications advice to the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs and PR advice generally to the department. In 2001 the department paid €87,033 to Indecon economic consultants for an evaluation of Ireland's participation in Expo 2000.

In 1998 the Department of Finance paid Compaq Computer Ireland Ltd €284,827 for something called "payable order reconciliation system for the bank clearing process for the Paymaster General's Office".

The same company then received a further €817,277 in the same year for "rewrite of payable order reconciliation in Paymaster General's Office to make it year 2000 compliant".

Big payouts were also made in relation to the benchmarking process in 2001 to Fitzpatrick Associates (€103,164); Hay Management Consultants (€117,640); PE Consulting Services (€4,800); Saville and Holdingsworth (Irl) Ltd (€4,800); IPC Consulting Facilitators (€4,800) and MCG Consulting Group (€172,006).

2002 saw more benchmarking consultancy with Hay Management Consultants getting €225,797; Alpha Consulting €48,053; TBP International €111,896; DLA €265,629; Watson Wyatt Partners €632,115; Tim Hastings and Associates €6,144. Deloitte and Touche also received a significant number of consultancy contracts from the Department of Finance.

Q4 Consultants, a communications company, got €83,400 in 2003 for "provision of advice on detailed management of informal ECOFIN meeting" - the meeting of EU finance ministers which took place in Ireland during the EU presidency.

The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism paid for 67 reports, consultancies or other advisory or public relations commissions since its establishment in June 2002. One of the biggest was to Deloitte - €184,815 for audit work for the 1994 - 1999 Tourism Operational Programme in 2004.

Newmarket Solutions got €235,851 in the 2002 - 2004 period for "provision of advice and assistance in implementing FMS financial management system, National Museum of Ireland. Drury Communications got €115,572 for market research from 2002 - 2004; Murray Consultants got €188,270 for public relations consultancy from 2003 to date; Fleishman Hilliard Saunders received €127,141 last year for PR services in connection with the ReJoyce festival last year marking Bloomsday. A further €245,000 was paid to other consultants in relation to this ReJoyce festival.

The Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs paid for 47 such reports, the biggest being for €550,223 for a "linguistic study of the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht as a means of strengthening the linguistic development of the Gaeltacht as an Irish-speaking area and as a basis for a review of the official Gaeltacht areas". The reply from this department does not say who produced this report.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs commissioned 83 reports in the period in question. This year over 50 projects are underway involving a consultancy element.

The Department of the Environment in this period paid for some 46 reports, 286 consultancies and 33 public relations commissions. The well-publicised payments to Monica Leech Communications - €135,036 in 2003 and €139,392 in 2004 - are dwarfed by payments made by this department for PR services in relation to specific projects. Drury Communications received €581,240 in 2001 in relation to the environment awareness campaign, €115,128 in 2002 in relation to the national spatial strategy, €648,460 in 2002 for the environment awareness campaign and €97,635 that year for the national spatial strategy.

And, of course, €3.33 million was paid to McConnell's advertising and Q4 public relations in relation to e-voting, a project which also led to Carr Communications getting €133,044; Brindley advertising €20,173; and Market Research Bureau of Ireland €12,719.

In the Department of Transport, €3.25 million went to Schroder Salomon Smith Barney in relation to the planned sale of Aer Lingus. Others receiving consultancy payments in relation to the proposed sale included Linklaters and Alliance, William Fry Solicitors, McCann Fitzgerald and Mason Hayes and Curran for legal advice, Irish International group (€764,321 for advertising); Drury Communications (€106,861 for PR and marketing advice); and Computershare (€60,947 for being the "receiving agent").

In 2003 Richard Hooper received €18,150 for examining the investment options for Aer Lingus. In 2004 Goldman Sachs got €30,000 for an evaluation of the ownership options regarding Aer Lingus Group plc. The same year Farrell Grant Sparks got €18,150 for looking at Aer Lingus' future funding requirements.

Government restructuring of Ireland's aviation industry led to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Matheson Ormsby Prentice and Steer Davies Gleave getting €1.84 million for advice in relation to the Aer Rianta restructuring in 2003.