Thursday 22 February 2018

Law firm wins key contract after giving State free advice

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Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

A LAW firm that provided a solicitor to the Government free of charge to advise on personal insolvency legislation has won a contract to provide the legal services to the Insolvency Service.

McCann FitzGerald won the contract to advise the new service, the Irish Independent has learnt.

The revelations have prompted calls for the rules on the awarding of government contracts to be clarified.

The award of preferred bidder status to the major Dublin firm will involve it advising on the regulation of personal insolvency practitioners (PIPs) and approved intermediaries, and the drafting of regulations, guidance notes, codes of conduct, reports and other legal documents/agreements, among other duties.

McCann FitzGerald was one of eight legal firms to bid for the contract.

It comes after McCann FitzGerald partner Joshua Hogan worked on secondment, free of charge, at the Department of Finance, and was heavily involved in the development of the insolvency legislation.

Last night, Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath called for new regulations to be drawn up to ensure that any private sector experts who work for free for the Government do not have any advantages conferred on them in the awarding of contracts.

The website of McCann FitzGerald states that its partner Mr Hogan was heavily involved in developing the personal insolvency legislation.

The website says of Mr Hogan: "He significantly contributed to the development of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 as legal adviser to the Department of Finance (on secondment) and the Department of Justice and Equality, where he provided legal advice on matters relating to personal insolvency and mortgage arrears."

Asked if there was a conflict of interest arising from Mr Hogan's role in developing the insolvency legislation and his firm winning a contract to provide legal services to the Insolvency Service of Ireland, McCann FitzGerald refused to comment.

"As you will appreciate we are unable to comment on matters that are not in the public domain. We would recommend you speak to the Insolvency Service of Ireland."

RULES

Both the Department of Justice and the Insolvency Service insisted that the awarding of the legal services contract complied with procurement rules and EU directives.

A spokesman for the Insolvency Service said: "The evaluation team were satisfied that following a thorough examination of the eight tenders, McCann FitzGerald were the preferred bidder.

"This competition is now in the 'standstill' period and a contract will not be concluded until after September 16, 2013.

"The standstill period offers the opportunity for disappointed tenderers to challenge a proposed award of contract.

"To date there have been no challenges."

Irish Independent

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