Dáil Éireann - Volume 608 - 25 October, 2005
Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.
Mr. Bruton Mr. Bruton
458. Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the percentage of reports, consultancies and cases from external commissions where the issue of poor value for money was highlighted, in her Department from 1998 to date in 2005. [30538/05]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan:In leading the development of a sustainable, competitive and consumer-focused agri-food sector, my Department has from time to  time considered it necessary to engage external expertise to advise on or otherwise assist in the development, implementation and independent evaluation of its policies, programmes and services.
In some instances, there is a legal obligation to obtain independent evaluation. Under the provisions of the EU Council Regulation No. 1258/99 on the financing of the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, and Commission Regulation No. 1663/95, since 1995 the European Commission only finances expenditure that is made by paying agencies accredited by member states. As part of the accreditation process, the regulations require that the annual accounts of the CAP paying agencies in member states must be accompanied by an “attestation” certificate regarding the integrality, exactitude and veracity of the annual accounts. This certificate must be given by a certifying body that is operationally independent of the paying agency.
With regard to ICT, consultancies were used over the period to establish and advise on some aspects of ICT strategy and e-Government delivery, which underpinned the transformation of our ICT systems over the past five years. As a result of this, my Department has delivered major improvements in internal efficiencies, controls, and delivery of service to its customers. For example, this has allowed my Department to deliver efficiently direct payments to farmers of €1.6 billion annually. In addition, my Department has been able to implement the single payment system, SPS, in 2005, and will start making such payments to farmers in December, the earliest implementation date allowable. A further return on the design of and the investment in ICT capability can be seen in the fact that it has control systems in place to trace animals and protect the food production chain and to manage disease outbreak, such as the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001.
Apart from early delivery of payments and improved food safety and traceability systems, my Department now also provides electronic access for farmers to the claims information, including their land parcel mapping. It provides electronic access to herd details and online registration of calf births.
I consider that consultancies engaged during the period in question have been necessary and have contributed significantly to my Department’s capabilities in developing the agrifood sector, preserving the country’s animal health status and protecting consumers, thus representing good value for money for my Department’s wide range of stakeholders, including taxpayers.
Dáil Éireann 608 Written Answers. Consultancy Contracts.