Big US government contractor considering expansion to Ireland

Multinational firm Maximus scoping out potential bids for employment services contracts

Maximus is thinking about bidding to run State schemes aimed at returning jobseekers to work. File photograph: The Irish Times

Maximus is thinking about bidding to run State schemes aimed at returning jobseekers to work. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

A large US government contractor has made moves to expand to Ireland and is understood to be considering bidding to run State schemes aimed at getting jobseekers back to work.

Maximus, a multinational company and significant US government contractor, has incorporated a subsidiary company in Ireland, which has yet to begin trading.

Maximus is contracted to help administrate a range of US government schemes, including the Medicaid and Medicare healthcare programmes, and also works with the American military. In Britain it has a large government contract to assess whether claimants are eligible for sickness and disability benefits and also runs back-to-work schemes.

The Virginia-based firm drew in more than $4 billion (€3.5 billion) in revenue last year, primarily from government contracts.

The multinational set up a subsidiary in Ireland in March 2020, company records show. When the company applied to register in Ireland it initially did so under the name Buzbury Ltd, which it then changed to Maximus Health and Human Services Ireland in February 2021.

The Irish entity lists its address as that of its solicitors, legal firm Arthur Cox. Its directors are Michael Batty, Maximus UK’s financial director, and Gerard Caruso, the US parent company’s vice-president of tax.

It is understood Maximus is scoping out the potential to bid on State contracts to run employment support services, which have traditionally been run by small, non-profit organisations. The company’s activity in Ireland is understood to be at an early exploratory stage at present.

In late December, the Department of Social Protection advertised for companies and organisations to bid for contracts to run local area employment services, which provide supports to get people who are long-term unemployed back to work.

The contract, estimated to be worth more than €170 million in total, is split into 17 lots, covering different parts of the country.

The tender guidelines state a provider can only be awarded a maximum of four lots, with successful bidders to be selected in the coming months.

A department spokeswoman said it would be unable to comment on any potential bidder while the procurement process was ongoing.

Non-profit and political reaction

The Irish Local Development Network, who represent non-profit community organisations that provide employment services, previously criticised the department over the move. The group claimed the procurement process was an attempt to replace the current system of community-led services and jobs clubs, with a model run by private companies.

In recent weeks a consultant acting for Maximus has been contacting community organisations, seeking to set up meetings to discuss partnering to bid on the local employment services contracts, according to sources in the sector.

In response to questions from The Irish Times on its plans, a Maximus spokesman said “as a global leader in employment services we are always open to exploring new markets”.

In the US, the Kansas department of health cut ties with Maximus in 2020, following complaints over its handling of Medicaid applications.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said entry of Maximus into the Irish market would “confirm the worst fears” of community employment groups about the privatisation of the local services.“This is a big red flag . . . what’s being planned is a JobPath 2.0,” he said.

Previously, private companies contracted to run Government services had been focused on “ticking boxes” and hitting targets, rather than helping people, he said.