Roche says complaints to HSE over taxi tender 'not political'
EUROPEAN Affairs Minister Dick Roche has denied his attempts to intervene in a Health Service Executive (HSE) taxi-service tender were politically motivated.
Mr Roche complained to the HSE after a taxi company, run by a former Fianna Fail councillor, failed to win the lucrative contract in his Wicklow constituency.
He accused the HSE of making decisions that would negatively affect patient services by not awarding the job to Pat Sweeney, owner of the Arklow-based Sweeney Taxis.
He asked the HSE to halt its tender process until his complaints about the nature of the contract and the procedures in awarding it were addressed.
However, last night Mr Roche insisted his decision was based on a concern for patient safety -- and nothing else.
"I was reluctant to intervene in the process but I felt strongly that patient welfare didn't feature in this process," he said.
"The HSE said its motivation for the process was to save money and I just wasn't convinced that the HSE was going to provide for the patients.
"I wrote to Professor Brendan Drumm and made it clear that my beef wasn't with the open competition, which is, of course, appropriate," he added.
"It was with the fact I wanted to make certain that it wasn't the patient paying the price in this process.
"I didn't write just on behalf of Sweeney Taxis. Another taxi company was also involved."
Mr Roche addressed his concerns to the board of the HSE, former HSE chief Prof Brendan Drumm and Health Minister Mary Harney in January.
In these letters, he asked the HSE to conduct a full re-evaluation of the tender processes which were being applied before the contracts were finalised.
He said he wanted the issues raised by him to be examined objectively before any proposals were put to the board.
However, the HSE wrote back to Mr Roche, saying that its taxi contracts were awarded in line with European directives on open procurement.
They said the decision to award the HSE contract to another firm would go ahead, insisting it achieved best value for money.
Prof Drumm also wrote to Mr Roche and said he was satisfied the contracts were awarded in line with best practice procurement policies.
But last night, Mr Roche insisted the new arrangement for taxi services in Wicklow would not work and was not focused on patient care.