Burton stands over huge €20m spend on IT experts
SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has defended the huge sums her department has paid to IT consultants since she took office.
The minister has approved spending of €19.4m with IT and computer firms since 2011, figures seen by Irish Independent show.
The IT spending accounts for the vast majority of the €20.6m the department spent on external consultants and service providers in that period.
Fianna Fail has criticised the spending, querying why the department does not have sufficient internal IT expertise of its own.
However, a spokesman for the minister said the department stood over the sums spent.
"Our IT infrastructure is being constantly updated. It needs to be as we are making over 1.4 million payments a week which benefit approximately 2.2 million adults and children," he said.
Much of the money spent with IT consultants went towards a modernisation programme known as 'Business Object Model implementation (BOMi)'.
International business consultant firm Bearing Point was paid €8.7m for work on BOMi.
The same firm also received €607,000 for technical services relating to the computer programme used to track cases involving medical referrals.
Other major contracts awarded by the department included:
* €2.75m paid to software firm Fujitsu Ireland to develop and support its payment platform.
* €1.56m spent with corporate finance consultants Deloitte for regional technical support.
* €1.2m paid to management consultants Accenture for developing a system to deduct the local property tax from social welfare payments.
* €569,958 spent with computer company Hewlett Packard for a redesign of the Welfare.ie website in 2012.
Computer systems developed by the department include one that allows it to swap information with other departments and agencies, so it can make decisions on applications for means-tested payments.
But the contracts were criticised by Fianna Fail senator Marc MacSharry, who received an outline of the spending from the department.
Mr MacSharry described the spending as "excessive" and queried why the department did not have sufficient internal expertise for much of the work.
He said it had historically been the "most pioneering" in terms of software systems.