Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has called on the government to take seriously the threat posed to public finances by cartels manipulating large public procurement contracts.
Her comments come ahead of a meeting of the Finance committee with the CCPC and the Office of Government Procurement.
Speaking ahead the Committee meeting, Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“We need to get serious about tackling cartels and bid-rigging of public contracts.
“We have seen in other jurisdictions high profile cases being taken against groups of private companies deciding among themselves who would bid and who would win public contracts.
“This sort of cartel behaviour is designed to avoid competition and to drive up costs.
“We are not seeing a sufficiently proactive approach from government. Hope and pretending it isn’t happening here is simply not good enough.
“The CCPC has confirmed that such behaviour here could be costing the state hundreds of millions.
“We have seen a huge case last year in Spain in their construction sector that saw a number of construction companies indefinitely banned from bidding on public contracts.
“The government here took no action despite many of the same companies operating in Ireland and winning public construction contracts.
“Only when Sinn Féin raised this issue with the Minister and Department was a review undertaken.
“There is a reason we have seen so few prosecutions for cartel behaviour and bid rigging and that is because it has not been prioritised by Fine Gael.
“I welcome the recent changes to strengthen the investigative powers of the CCPC but more needs to be done to allow the CCPC to do their job.
“We have to begin collecting and analysing all public procurement data in a systematic way to detect and deter bid-rigging.
“This was called for by the former head of the CCPC back in 2016 and was a recommendation in the Hamilton Report in 2020. Yet the government has not acted.
“Until that is in place, we will not have a robust system for countering cartels and bid-rigging.
“Only with the right resources and information will the CCPC be able to turn its new investigative powers to convictions of cartel behaviour and bid-rigging.
“Until a robust anti-cartel and bid-rigging system is in place, our public finances will continue to be at risk.”