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Friday 24 March 2017

State agency spends €27,000 on 'paper adviser'

Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

A GOVERNMENT agency has hired a "paper adviser" at a cost of €27,000 over three years to help with services -- such as buying photocopying paper.

The National Procurement Service (NPS) awarded the contract in December after it tendered for the service last year.

The NPS is tasked with negotiating and pooling value-formoney contracts for commonly needed goods and services and making them available to all public sector agencies.

According to public tendering documents, the contract was awarded to Papernet -- a business based in Skerries, north Dublin.

It won the competition after it submitted the only application that the NPS received for the position.

Last year, Minister of State Brian Hayes, who has responsibility for public spending, launched an initiative through the NPS to buy cut-price stationery services at a 25pc discount. When it emerged in June that most state bodies had failed to avail of the discount, Mr Hayes ordered a major crackdown to stop wasteful spending by public bodies.

He warned it was "time to tackle wayward practices" and warned he may adopt a "name-and-shame" approach.

Just 170 of 400 government departments, public bodies and agencies had acted on the contract, held by Irish company Codex, by June.

According to the details of the recent tender, the NPS required an "independent paper expert" to act as a "paper advisor" for 36 months.

The agreement included a clause to extend the contract for a further year in two periods of six months if so required.

"The work will require the attention of a suitably qualified person advising NPS staff in the OPW (Office of Public Works) on all issues relating to the procurement of photocopying paper and other paper products," the invitation to tender said.

The owner of Papernet, Ken Waldron, told the Irish Independent that part of the work could involve sourcing paper from a foreign country.

However, he declined to comment when asked about the specifics of the contract.

A spokesperson for the OPW, the public body that oversees the NPS, said that current NPS staff do not possess the technical ability and market knowledge to undertake the work.

This includes reviewing current contracts, advice on linking price changes to a recognised pricing index and advice on environmentally friendly products. It said that estimated public sector spending on paper, stationery and envelopes is between €14m and €16m a year.

Irish Independent

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