Business Irish

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Nick Webb: The ex-minister and the State contract

Published 24/08/2014 | 02:30

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Nicola Hughes, Karena Graham and Kerrie Nicole Blanc at the launch of Cannonball 2014

The Department of Agriculture has paid €5.5m in fees over the last year to a company where former Fianna Fail Agriculture minister Joe Walsh serves as a board member. Walsh has been a director of payments processing and outsourcing group SouthWestern BPS since late 2010, having joined the firm located in the heart of his former Cork constituency after leaving politics. The firm has worked with a number of state agencies including Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and the HSE.

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Last week Simon Coveney's department told me that over the last 12 months SouthWestern had received €5.3m for "provision of bovine birth registrations and passport issue and the processing of notifications in relation to farm bovine movements and on farm bovine death notification" with a further €180,000 for assorted tasks including validating and correlating milk test results and "the handling and processing and verification of pig movement notifications".

These contracts were awarded "on the basis of competitive public tenders" the department has said.

Between 2000 and 2003, while Walsh was minister, SouthWestern earned €12,916,063 from the Department of Agriculture. Over the last 14 years, the Clonakilty firm has been paid around €65m in fees associated with lucrative state contracts from the department.

SouthWestern, which was bought by UK group Capita for €35m last week, has said that Walsh retired as agriculture minister in 2004 and only joined the board of Southwestern in 2011 so there was never any conflict of interest. The new multi-national owners will learn that having local knowledge is very important when doing business here.

Sunday Indo Business

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