Sunday 18 March 2018

Charity to put controversial PR contract out for tender

Cormac McQuinn and Fiach Kelly

THE controversial PR contract awarded to the husband of presidential candidate Mary Davis is to be put out to tender, the chief executive of the charity Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) has told the Irish Independent.

Ms Davis denied that the contract, awarded to PR firm Fleishmann Hillard, of which her husband Julian Davis is a director, amounted to a conflict of interest.

Both she and her husband sat on the charity's boards of directors while Fleishmann conducted PR work for SEI.

At her official campaign launch yesterday, which was overshadowed by controversy, she insisted: "There was absolutely no cronyism at play here. I had nothing to do with the awarding of the contract."

Both Mrs Davis and her husband, pictured right at her launch yesterday, said they absented themselves from any board meetings where the contract, worth tens of thousands of euro a year to Fleishmann Hillard, was discussed.

Now SEI chief executive Sean Coughlan says the contract will be put out to tender after this month's Social Entrepreneurs Awards, which is being promoted by Fleishmann Hillard and will be attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The contract had previously been operated on a rolling basis, with no official end date.

Fleishmann Hillard will now enter a competition with other companies if it is to hold to the contract.

SEI spent around €70,000 on public relations and marketing in 2008 and 2009.

However, while SEI confirmed Fleishmann Hillard was the only firm that held a contract to represent the charity, Mr Coughlan and Mr Davis refused to say how much of this was paid to the agency.

The SEI chief executive denied that the decision to retender the contract had been taken due to concerns over a perceived conflict of interest.

He said the board decided there was no conflict because Fleishmann Hillard was originally awarded the SEI contract in 2007 as it had previously worked with associated charity The One Foundation since 2005.

Mr and Mrs Davis joined the board of SEI in 2007, with Ms Davis previously serving as a director at the One Foundation from 2006.

Ms Davis declined to comment on the retendering.

Irish Independent

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