Tuesday 22 October 2019

Firms and former officials cash in on connections with Government

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

SEVERAL private firms and individuals with strong political and departmental connections secured lucrative government work over the past two years.

These included firms now run by former leading figures in Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats, as well as a number of former senior civil servants.

Topping the list is economic consultancy firm Indecon, which was paid a total of €1.6m in an 18-month period to provide services for eight government departments.

The company's chairman, Paddy Mullarkey, was secretary general of the Department of Finance until 2000. His predecessor as secretary general, Sean Cromien, was paid €8,800, at a rate of €800 per day, to report on the operation of a heritage fund for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.

Meanwhile, Tom Considine, who held the finance secretary general's post between 2002 and 2006, was paid €54,400 by the Department of Health for a study on HSE accounting practices.


He was also paid €29,000 by the Department of Environment to complete a review in connection with a controversial construction contract in Limerick, which was completed for €73m more than the original cost.

Public relations firm MRPA Kinman, whose directors include former PD officials Ray Gordon and Stephen O'Byrnes, was paid €464,000 by the Department of Finance to publicise the National Development Plan.

Q4 Public Relations -- set up in 2003 by Martin Mackin, a former general secretary of Fianna Fail, and Jackie Gallagher, a former adviser of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern -- netted €236,000 from government projects.

The company was branded "friends of Fianna Fail" by a Fine Gael TD five years ago after it secured a lucrative contract to publicise the Government's ill-fated electronic voting initiative. The comments prompted the then environment minister Martin Cullen to deny any partiality towards Q4 in the tendering process.

Meanwhile, former IDA executive director Dan Flinter was paid €8,600, at a rate of €2,000 a day, by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to facilitate two workshops examining the burdens of regulation on business.

Elsewhere, John Malone, the former general secretary at the Department of Agriculture, was paid €23,300 for a forestry report earlier this year. He was previously paid €22,700 for a sheep industry report.

The Department of Transport also paid Peter Cassells, the former general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, €30,250 to mediate between the Cork and Dublin airport authorities in a row over the splitting of airport debt following the break up of Aer Rianta.

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