340. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to any irregularities involving procurement issues within the estates and or building services divisions of the Prison Service unit: if so, the details, nature and extent of same. [27269/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): I would like to inform the Deputy that my Department received correspondence on September 13, 2019, in relation to alleged procurement irregularities involving the Irish Prison Service and a named company. This was forwarded to my Department’s Internal Audit Unit for examination. I am informed that an investigation in relation to the complaint commenced in March 2020 and that this investigation will be finalised in 2021.
The nature of the allegations relate to the extension of a supplier contract and the awarding of works from this contract, and to allegations around purchases, payment rates and the utilisation of supplier maintenance staff.
A new tender was completed in 2020 and I am informed that this was a complex and lengthy tender process involving extensive engagement with a number of parties including the Office of Government Procurement, the Chief State Solicitor's Office, and technical consultants.
I understand that the previous contract remained in operation until the new contract commenced in 2020. This was to ensure continuity of service provision for the prison estate and involved various works, ranging from commissioning and maintenance of mechanical and electrical and associated plant and systems, repairs, renewals and upgrades, and general, reactive and planned preventative maintenance.
Where work was carried out beyond the original contract date, the expenditure has been reported in line with government accounting rules.
A further allegation was received in 2020. This allegation is currently being investigated.