| 13.7°C Dublin

Ex-minister's firm got €56m from old department


OUTSOURCING ROLE: Former Fianna Failer Joe Walsh

OUTSOURCING ROLE: Former Fianna Failer Joe Walsh

OUTSOURCING ROLE: Former Fianna Failer Joe Walsh

Former Fianna Fail agriculture minister Joe Walsh sits on the board of a company that has earned more than €56m in fees from his former department over 12 years.

The Cork politician joined the board of outsourcing firm Southwestern two years ago, with company registration office documents listing his appointment in October 2010. Mr Walsh served as minister for Agriculture from 1997 to 2004, during which time Southwestern earned at least €12.9m in fees from his department.

Southwestern first won a contract "to provide data capture services relating to cattle births" from the Department of Agriculture in 1996. The fast-growing company now administers the national animal movement and registration system on behalf of the department.

In July 2010, it was awarded a contract by the department for the registration, which was announced by then then-minister Brendan Smith at the company headquarters.

From 2000 to 2012, Southwestern earned close to €56.5m in fees from the Department of Agriculture after winning a number of contracts. The first, for the processing of bovine birth registrations, was awarded in 1996. "All contracts awarded to them since were as a result of public procurement competitions," according to the Department of Agriculture's statement to the Sunday Independent.

Between 2000 to 2003, while Mr Walsh was minister, the Clonakilty headquartered firm earned €12,916,063 in fees, according to the response to a parliamentary question in February 2010. Between 2004 to 2008, it got €17,945,349. From 2008 to February 2010, SouthWestern was paid €10,494,668 for the "provision of a bovine birth registration system and passport issue system".

The Department of agriculture confirmed that another €15m has been paid since February 2010.

Southwestern has also received €239,435 from the department since March 2010 for operating a pig identification and traceablity scheme and another €33,000 for running a sheep and goat census scheme. The company has earned another €333,161 from the department for issuing regulatory notices since March 2010.

"A public procurement tender competition was held in September 2009 for the award of the contract to process these movements and death notifications and a public procurement tender was held in September 2010 for the award of the contract to process these birth registrations. Tenders were assessed by separate evaluation committees in accordance with the criteria outlined in the Requests for Tenders (RFT).

"Both tenders were deemed by the evaluation committees to be the most economically advantageous tenders and accordingly contracts were awarded to SouthWestern," according to the department of Agriculture.

"Mr Walsh joined the board of SouthWestern approximately two years ago -- some six years after he stepped down as minister for Agriculture. Any state contracts which the company has been awarded have been awarded on the basis of competitive public tenders.

"Our success in those tenders reflects our role as one of the largest and most successful outsourcing businesses in the country," according to a Southwestern spokesman.

"Mr Walsh makes a very significant contribution to the company as a director, but he has had no involvement in the company's relationship with the Department of Agriculture or in respect of our banking relationships."

Mr Walsh, who stepped down from the Dail at the 2007 general Election, is one of the public interest directors appointed by the state at Bank of Ireland.

Sunday Indo Business