Dáil Questions: Public Expenditure

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Dáil Issues, Oral Questions, Public Expenditure

Another major interest bagged for one of Denis O’Brien’s companies. Clare questioned Minister Brendan Howlin about whether he is happy with the manner in which the contract for fuel cards for all public vehicles was awarded to Denis O’Brien’s Topaz.  Seems like he reckons, as he did last October, when Mick Wallace questioned him about Siteserve, that we are “absolutely fundamentally and completely wrong to have any concerns”, do you agree?

To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the procurement policies invoked in the process of awarding the contract for fuel cards for staff of the Office of Public Works to a company (details supplied).

Fuel card services are a mechanism by which organisations can leverage their buying power while also reducing their administrative costs and improving visibility and control on fleet costs. Drivers typically use the fuel card to buy fuel, oil and vehicle washing services through a network of filling stations, with detailed information on vehicle registration number, odometer reading and fuel used being provided by the service providers to the organisation electronically. Fuel cards are restricted to the use indicated.

A Request for Tender was issued on etenders and the OJEU on 20th Sept 2013 for the supply of Fuel Charge Card Services for the Irish public sector. This tender was initiated to replace an existing arrangement established in 2011 for fuel cards.

This competition was for a single supplier framework agreement and was held under the Open Procedure. The process was conducted in full compliance with all EU and Irish procurement law.

The tenders recieved were evaluated by a team with representation from Local Government, An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service and the Office of Government Procurement. The agreement was awarded on a ‘most economically advantageous tender’ basis to Topaz Ireland of 1st February 2014. The Fuel Card Framework Agreement is due to expire 31 January 2017, with an option to extend, for a further year, under the same terms and conditions, until 31 January 2018.

This is a single supplier framework agreement delivered through a network of Topaz petrol stations, SMEs operating under the Topaz brand, other competitor oil companies (negotiated arrangement between the oil companies), and other SMEs. The network has a significant footprint in every county in Ireland. The total number of service stations in the network is 657. Of the 657 service stations 100 are owned by Topaz. The vast majority of the remainder are owned by franchisees who are individual small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).

In summary, this agreement achieves value for money for the taxpayer while also supporting a large network of independant SMEs who operate filling stations across the country.