Thursday, 17 December 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
On behalf of the Social Democrats, I wish the Ceann Comhairle, all Members and all Oireachtas staff a happy and restful Christmas. It has been a rough year for everybody and that includes everybody associated with the Houses of the Oireachtas. Let us hope for better times in 2021.
I raise with the Tánaiste an interview Mr. Paul Reid did on the "This Week" programme last Sunday. He was asked about a contract worth €14 million that the HSE had entered into for ventilators. It seems there were serious problems with that purchase. As I understand it, the ventilators have never been used in a clinical setting. There were quality issues about the ventilators in question. That raises a large number of issues. I fully accept that this was a pressurised period. Everybody was stressed about the situation and there was a rush to get medical equipment. It raises questions, however, about procurement and financial controls, and those are important at any time.
One must wonder how this contract came to be placed. It was placed with a company called Roqu, which had previously only been known for event management and organising festivals in the Middle East. It had a residential apartment address in Dublin city centre and one employee, who was the owner of the company, Mr. Robert Quirke. How much does the Tánaiste know about the awarding of this contract, which resulted in the taxpayer being caught for huge figure of €14 million? What does he know about contacts between the owner of the company, Mr. Quirke, and the HSE? Who contacted whom? Was there any contact regarding this with either the then Minister for Health, the Tánaiste, who was Taoiseach at the time, or anybody else at a political level? How did it come about that contact was made and then the subsequent order was placed? There are serious concerns about this and how it came about. What approvals were required? Were political approvals required for placing that order? I would appreciate if the Tánaiste could answer those questions. We know that a subsidiary of the company in question, another Roqu company, went on to do the testing in County Roscommon and was also involved in developing the health passport app. One wonders how these contracts were awarded to a company with no history and, apparently, no expertise in the health products area.