Top legal firm's €60m HSE deal heads for courts
A MAJOR row is brewing over the awarding of a massive €60m HSE contract to top solicitors' firm Arthur Cox. Sources close to the controversy say that the issue is likely to end up in court.
Last month, the Health Service Executive gave the contract to Cox's -- despite the fact that the underbidder, a consortium of medium-sized solicitors, tendered substantially less for the job.
Eugene McCague, a senior partner at Arthur Cox, is also on the board of the HSE.
Last Friday a spokesman for the Health Service Executive said that if any contracts with as much as a potential conflict of interest ever came to the board, Mr McCague (or any other director affected) would withdraw from the room and take no part in the decision.
The contract for legal services to the health giant (including the critically important children's health area) was originally contested by five parties but, following several withdrawals, was reduced to a duel between the Cox bid and the consortium of three legal firms, namely Byrne Wallace, Comyn Kelleher Tobin and Philip Lee.
Sources close to the HSE insist that although the consortium was much cheaper on price, it was beaten on nearly all other criteria. The result was a win for the big solicitors by a whisker, scoring 680 points to the consortium's 675 out of a possible 1,000 maximum.
Insiders suggest that there was deep discontent at the verdict among members of the consortium because they were beaten on subjective criteria, but were ahead by a distance on the only item -- price -- where there was no room for human judgement.
Arthur Cox solicitors have been major beneficiaries of State legal work in recent years. As a result of the banking collapse, the firm has netted legal fees of €11m -- by far the biggest amount earned by any legal firm from the financial crisis.