Dick Roche Minister for European Affairs was reported in yesterday’s Sunday Times to have attempted last January to interfere with the awarding of a HSE tender for taxi services after a company that was run by Pat Sweeney (who is a former FF councillor) and his wife Irene (who failed to get elected in last years local elections) failed to win the tender contract.
It is reported that Dick Roche wrote to Brendan Drumm the former CEO of the HSE and Mary Harney Minister for Health to complain that Pat Sweeney who is based in Arklow had failed to win the contract to ferry patients around his constituency. Mr. Roche accused the HSE of making decisions that would negatively affect patient services by not awarding the contract to Sweeney, who had provided this service for 30 years up to 2010.
Roche asked the HSE to halt the tender process until a list of his complaints were dealt with. The first letter that Roche wrote was to Dara Purcell the secretary to the HSE board from his Department of An Taoiseach email on January 9.
Roche said that he was “reluctant to approach the HSE on a contract matter” as neither he nor the Sweeney’s “wish in any way to improperly influence the awarding of a contract” however he asked for a “full re-evaluation of the processes applied be carried out before these contracts are finalised”.
In a further letter to Purcell on January 11th, Roche said he was “loath to interfere in the tendering process”. In an attached letter to Prof. Drumm he said the scorecard used had omitted “quality and safe service for patients” as a category and the 50% score awards to the Sweeney’s “defies logic”.
In support, Roche included testimonials from an Arklow based medical practice and two dialysis patients who he said must be factored into any final decisions that were made.
Roche also queried how accurate scores could be given to a rival taxi provider who did not already provide the service and he went on to criticise National Radio Cab’s who is believed to have won the contract.
He write “he had no wish to question the efficiency of this company, but even a casual user of taxi services in the greater Dublin area must come to the conclusion that they are far from exemplary”.
He also wrote “has the HSE before awarding this valuable contract to this particular taxi company checked the quality of its cabs? Have you checked the capacity of the drivers to find their way around the remote villages and rural regions of Co. Wicklow”?
In a letter to Drumm dated February 18, Roche said that “all of the available evidence suggests that service arrangements which the HSE signed up to are not focused on patient care”. In May Drumm replied and said he would investigate the matter.
Drumm however defended the earlier reponses to the Minister and said he was satisfied that the contracts were awarded in line with best practice procurement policies.
On Saturday, Roche defended his actions and said that the fact that the Sweeney’s were FF’s “is neither here or there” and “I believe that bureaucratic considerations decided this tender not patient care. The Sweeney’s have been providing an exemplary service for 30 years without ever receiving a complaint”