Tuesday 25 June 2019

Tusla paid extra €30,000 for consultant

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, hired a consultant to work in the Educational Welfare and School Completion Services area without open competition, paying €72,425 for work originally estimated to cost €43,200.

At that point the agency was particularly cash-strapped and under obligation to ensure a high standard in the care, protection and welfare of children.

The agency claimed there was a matter of public urgency in hiring the consultant in January 2015.

The former chief executive of Tusla, Gordon Jeyes, explained to the HSE auditors that due to a number of vacancies in its senior management team, there were a series of capacity issues.

The auditors, however, said it is not clear to them that the matter fell within public urgency. They could find no evidence to indicate a competitive procurement process and there was no market testing carried out prior to engaging the consultant.

The former chief executive said the consultant was "head hunted" by him after making his acquaintance through a working forum.

The audit said this does not present itself as being at "arm's length" and therefore the auditors could not determine if value for money was obtained by Tusla.

The agreed rate would have amounted to €43,200 for the work.

The consultant began work in February 2015 and finished in July. Eventually the cost came to €72,425.

A contract was prepared and discussed, but not signed.

A copy of the contract could not be found.

The auditors warned that the organisation is exposed to the risk of change in rates if there is no contract.

There is also the potential for disagreements over responsibilities and other disagreements.

The auditors pointed to the need to carry out appropriate market testing to determine the cost of engaging a consultant with the right level of skills and expertise.

"All procurement must be administered at arm's length," the report added.

Once the successful candidate is chosen it should be mandatory to sign a contract. They should be properly managed by a nominated member of staff.

Irish Independent

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