Friday 17 November 2017

Abtran receives €12.5m for Property Tax work

Michael Fitzgerald, ceo of Abtran, with Abtran staff Andrea Woods and Anthony Foley
Michael Fitzgerald, ceo of Abtran, with Abtran staff Andrea Woods and Anthony Foley

Gordon Deegan

Outsourcing firm Abtran, which operates the helpline for the State's local property tax last year received fees from the Revenue Commissioners of €1.94m (including Vat).

New figures provided by Revenue show that since March 2013, the Cork-headquartered firm has received fees totalling €12.5m for the operation of the local property tax (LPT).

The €1.94m paid last year follows €2.38m paid out in fees to the firm in 2015 and this followed payments of €4.65m paid out to the firm in 2014.

Abtran started with just six people in 1997 - now it is Ireland's leading provider of customer and business process management services, employing over 2,000 people in Cork and Dublin. It works with a wide range of clients across multiple sectors.

In 2013, Abtran expanded after securing the contract with Irish Water to operate its call centre.

The use of Abtran has come under fire from the Civil and Public Service Union (CPSU) which claims that the monies being paid to Abtran is an inefficient use of public funds and represents a very poor return for money for the taxpayer, as there is no skill base being built up.

In a submission on an extension of the LPT-outsourcing contract, the CPSU stated that the spending on the contract to Abtran was "a complete waste of state resources, not the cheapest option and not cost efficient".

However, yesterday, a Revenue spokeswoman stated "very large volumes of LPT calls were received during 2013, 2014, 2015 and the pattern that has since emerged indicates that very high and variable volumes of calls and correspondence will continue to be received".

"The levels of calls received continue to be beyond Revenue's internal capacity and the timing of peaks and troughs in demand for call services has remained very variable and unpredictable," she said.

"The service provided by the external service provider greatly assists in the provision of a flexible, responsive and scalable solution to meeting the ongoing unpredictable variable demand for the LPT telephone service."

She said that there were close to 394,000 calls to the LPT helpline during 2016.

"Revenue must deliver on other key customer service programmes, which, in turn, support Revenue's capacity to deliver for the Exchequer in relation to its overall priority of maintaining and improving compliance levels across all taxes and duties.

"Equally importantly, compliance levels for all the other taxes have remained at a high level, and have not been adversely impacted by the ongoing demands of LPT, as internal resources have not had to be redeployed to handle the customer services associated with LPT.

"Revenue gave full consideration to all service-delivery options before awarding the new contract and concluded that the provision of a quality call service could be best achieved through the external service providers."

The current contract covers the period up to March 2018, with the option to extend the contract for another two years from that date.

A full review by Revenue of the business needs and the service provided will be carried out prior to March 2018.

She said that based on the very positive results achieved in spite of the exceptional temporary pressures for service, "Revenue is satisfied that the engagement of an external call service support continues to be required".

Irish Independent

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