Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Rural and Community Development
1175. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development 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. [7287/20]
In 2019, a total of €324,839 was spent on the provision of consultancy services to aid the work of my Department, including informing policy development.
The hourly rate varies across consultancies and is dependent on the type of consultancy in question and whether a fixed project fee is applicable.
The Department has detailed guidance in place with regard to procurement of goods and services, including consultancies. Consultants are engaged only when absolutely necessary, with appropriate monitoring of outputs throughout the contract.
Expenditure on consultants is monitored regularly to ensure it remains on profile and within designated budget. All planned consultancies over €25,000 are subject to approval by the Department’s Management Board which ensures effective oversight of all consultancies and appropriate budget management.
Consultancies are procured by open competitive tendering processes in accordance with EU and national rules. In line with this, the Department makes use of the framework agreements put in place by the Office of Government Procurement wherever possible. The use of framework agreements ensures value for money, that hourly consultancy rates are capped at stated levels, and that there is transparency and fairness in the procurement process.
It is also important to note that at all times officials operate in the context of other relevant guidelines and statutory requirements. Section 14 of the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour sets out the requirements, of officials, in terms of conflicts or potential conflicts of interest with Departmental Business. Breaches of the Code are subject to disciplinary action.
The Standards in Public Office and Ethics in Public Office legislation deal comprehensively with standards required of civil servants, including those relating to probity, integrity and potential conflicts of interests.
Finally, procurement practices are also subject to audit and scrutiny under the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 and Accounting Officers are publicly accountable for expenditure incurred.