Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
44. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount spent on external consultants by his Department in 2019; the average hourly rate; if caps or limits on such spending are in place; the way in which conflicts of interest are managed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7282/20]
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for two Votes - Vote 27 (International Co-operation) and Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs and Trade).
This Department spent €415,108 on external consultants in 2019 across both Votes.
The Department seeks to minimise expenditure on consultants. It commissions external expertise in line with national and EU procurement rules in areas where highly specialised skills are not available, in particular where independent evaluation of projects is required. During the course of their engagement, these consultants and experts may prepare reports and other analysis or documentation for the Department.
In-depth analysis of issues by external experts has informed, and continues to inform, the Department’s policies, allowing for a more targeted use of resources and greater accountability in the allocation of budgets.
All consultancy procurement in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is carried out in accordance with relevant procurement legislation and EU Directives. This competitive tender process establishes the cost of the work which acts as the limit for the consultancy work. As a public body, the Department complies with the procedures for public procurement laid down in the Public Procurement Guidelines for Goods and Services published by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) in 2019. Consultancy projects are tendered for on the basis of completion of an entire piece of work and not on an hourly basis. Therefore the Department does not mainatain details of the various hourly rates. The Department maintains strict budgetary oversight of all consultancies to ensure that all costs are in line with the relevant tender.
The Department acts appropriately to prevent, identify and remedy conflicts of interest in the conduct of a procurement procedure to avoid any distortion of competition and to ensure equal treatment of consultancy tenders. The conflict of interest procedure involves ascertaining if Evaluation Committee members have any actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest in participating in the tender evaluation process. Every Committee member is required to complete and sign a conflict of interest declaration in advance of the evaluation process. When a conflict of interest has been declared in advance of evaluation, the nature of the conflict and any deliberations on managing the conflict together with the resolution is recorded in the procurement file.
A small number of consultancies are engaged directly by our Missions abroad from time to time and in some instances they prepare technical reports relating to Ireland’s overseas development aid programme.