Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen TD has today called upon Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly, to answer questions over his role in helping a for-profit company to secure one of the winning tenders for his Department’s scheme for providing personal alarms to older people.

Deputy Cowen explained, “The Senior Alert Alarms community group contracts were won by Task Alarms as part of a new centralised tendering process operated by Pobal. The contracts won by the group will be worth €3.6m over three years.

“Task Alarms is a For-Profit company, which won the tendering competition at the expense of not-for-profit groups, who have been the providers of the elderly alarms to community groups for over a decade.

“However, it has emerged that Minister Kelly actually met the managing director of north Dublin based Task, along with Labour Party TD, Brendan Ryan, in the middle of the tendering process. This is despite the fact that, under the terms of the tendering competition, any solicitations by a tendering party should have ruled their bid out of order.

“Furthermore, FOI requests show that the Minister followed up on his meeting with Task, by making requests about the structure of the tendering process to officials within his Department.

“It is very suspicious that the Minister met with Task, the final winner of 60% of the contracts, in the middle of the tendering process. It is even more suspicious that there were no minutes taken of what discussions were had during the meetings, as is normal Departmental practice.

“Under the old scheme, not-for-profit providers, such as Home Safe Home Elderly Care in Dublin, Emergency Response in Cork, HelpLink South in Westmeath provided elderly alarms to community groups and re-invested the funding received back into elderly services in the community. As a result of this very questionable tendering competition, a for-profit provider has managed to corner 60% of the market for elderly alarms, and the financial viability of these not-for-profit elderly services, such as elderly counselling and visitation services, is now severely in doubt.

“Moreover, community groups themselves are not happy with this new tendering competition, which has meant more administrative burden for them and the loss of vital community partners in the not-for-profit sector.

“The Minister needs to come clean and outline in detail the content of his meeting with the winning company, what interventions he made in the bidding process as well as to explain the other anomalies in the tendering competition.

“We have seen a worrying pattern emerge under Minister Kelly, where Ministerial meetings take place with interested parties and no Minutes are taken, as also recently happened with controversial property management company Cerberus.”