Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
915. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine 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. [7274/20]
My Department seeks to minimise the use of consultants and only engages consultancy companies when particular additional expertise is required for delivery of the services which support the business processes of the Department. Such services are used in areas where the Department does not have the necessary expertise or internal capacity to deliver the services and where it would not make practical, operational or economic sense to build up this capability within the Department. Some engagements are necessary to satisfy auditing and EU regulatory requirements as to independent review. All contracts are negotiated with a view to achieving best value for money.
A total of €1,755,562 was spent by my Department on external consultants in 2019. It is not possible to provide the Deputy with the hourly rate as the majority of consultants were engaged under a framework agreement, set fee or fixed price contract.
My Department utilises the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) Request for Tender (RFT) services templates in the tendering of services, including consultant services. The RFT (Part 2, Section 2.18 – Conflicts of Interest) requires Tenderers to fully disclose any conflict of interest, or potential conflict of interest, on behalf of a tenderer, sub-contractor, or individual employee(s) or agent(s) of a tenderer or sub-contractor as soon as the conflict of interest is or becomes apparent. Section 2.18 also enables my Department to decide on the appropriate course of action and allows for, in appropriate circumstances, eliminating a Tenderer from the competition or termination of a contract.
The OGP Services Contract (Schedule A: Terms and Conditions, Clause 20 - Conflicts, Registrable Interests and Corrupt Gifts), which my Department also utilises in respect of services, including consultant services, reiterates the requirement for a conflict of interest check on the part of the contractor, and confers on my Department the right to terminate a contract if a conflict of interest is disclosed.
All staff in my Department sign an annual Conflict of Interest Declaration, while those engaged in the evaluation of responses to RFTs must also sign a conflict of interest form at evaluation stage in order to prevent, identify and remedy conflicts of interest in procurement procedures.