Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions
Direct Provision: Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality
It is important to put on record that Ms Sue Conlan has spoken for herself. In her letter of resignation she said:
The decision not to allow the Working Group, which contains experts on international protection law as well as lay people, to have sight of and indeed comment upon the Heads of the Bill is regrettable. In addition, the intransigence from officials from the Department of Justice in attempting to reach a compromise over people in the system for more than five years, makes it impossible to reach agreement for a process that will give people in Direct Provision the relief that they need. The draft report from the group which has been looking at living conditions, despite it being a report from the sub-group, from the perspective of the IRC, reads too much like a document of the Reception and Integration Agency.
I do not necessarily want to comment on her letter but it is important to put it on the record.
Private contractors represent another huge issue. Some of the figures put on record here, by Doras Luimní in particular, are of huge concern. It has claimed that Ireland has paid over €850 million to private contractors for accommodating asylum seekers since 2002 while €62 million was paid in 2012 and €55 million was paid in 2013. It was highlighted that many of these private contractors have been involved in property development, etc. previously. Also, some of them have offshore accounts and have beneficial owners in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man.
There is huge concern over the actual set up of direct provision. There is also no legislative framework and seems to be an ad hoc system. Perhaps the Minister of State can tell us a bit more in terms of the following. How are these companies contracted? Are they publicly tendered? If so, where are the tenders advertised? How often are they advertised? How often are the contracts renewed? What is the criteria for renewal of contracts, etc? An oversight of between €53 million and €55 million a year of Government spending is a huge area of concern. Is such expenditure audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, etc? That is an area of huge concern in terms of the moneys involved as well as the private nature of the contracts, etc.