The Baker Tilly Report details questionable procurement practices, suspected fraud and collusion between employees and tendering companies within Iaranród Eireann, the sub-section of CIÉ which manages our rail network.
It covers the period between January 2004 and January 2008 and runs to more than 350 pages, making it the biggest official report I’ve read in quite a while. Although the directors of CIÉ received a copy in early 2008, shockingly, they didn’t think it proper to give the minister of transport a copy until the Sunday Independent got a few leaks about the contents in October of this year. It became available under FOI in the last two weeks. It should be noted that the minister is a shareholder in CIÉ, and the company got more than €300m in taxpayers money last year alone. Also worth noting, the department only requested a copy of the report after seeing the SIndo – otherwise this may never have become public knowledge.
Since collecting a copy from the department last week I’ve scanned and sent it in batches to Gavin. He OCR’d them and stitched them back together into a single PDF file which can be viewed at the link below, it gets interesting around page 260. As far as I am aware, this is the only digital copy in the public domain.
The findings are shocking. There was widespread “on-going non-compliance” with procurement procedures resulting in “fundamental system deficiency” in how private companies won contracts. EU procurement laws were ignored. Employees stole railway sleepers from stock, continuously over a long period, and sold them for their own profit – the methods (or lack thereof) used to monitor stock meant this went unnoticed. Companies were paid for work which doesn’t seem to have been done. Paperwork on a serious number of contracts was near non-existent. Explanations for discrepancies arising in stock records are not investigated to a satisfactory extent. Employees colluded with companies to ensure contracts were won. Staff weren’t trained in how to do their job, and one person who signed off on a contract for work which didn’t seem to get done had the contractor working on their private residence.
It’s Fás Mark II.
One figure for definable loss to the company is €2.6m, but this is low due the lack of paperwork available to quantify whether or not elements of contracts, or whole contracts, were losses or not. The Baker Tilly team even state “we are confident that other unidentified loss exists within the organisation”. Shane Ross puts the figure at €9m.
The Spencer Dock/North Wall development project makes up €892,887 of the definable figure of which €363,540 was down to “known or suspected fraud”. In another area a loss of €271,665 was put down to collusion with contractors – specifically “fraudulent invoices paid over a number of years” at the specific request of an employee whose name has been redacted. The report says the employee has repaid €100,000 in compensation, though it doesn’t say whether or not they’re still an employee to this day.
Another person was employed as an inspector to monitor the work of various contractors (aka vendors), however…
…the work which was being described on the system was not actually being carried out. Surveillance showed that the contractors were doing little or no work when they should have been under the supervision of the inspector in question.
In one instance the vendor was seen to be carrying out work at the inspector’s private address.
It is likely that the company [IÉ] has suffered financial loss whether through value for money or actual fraud during the period examined for the said inspector. Invoices for the period examined total €30,602. It is also highly likely that further losses have been incurred as a result.
However, it’s goes beyond the above. The first 200 pages, though insanely boring and lacking figures, document a complete lack of oversight and management within the organisation. There was no standard procurement paperwork, for example, meaning it is difficult to trace who was responsible for issuing contracts, what the contracts were for or even who was invited to compete for the work.
Also, service entry details were being based on “pro-forma invoices received after work had been completed rather than being based on an original request, prior to the work commencing”, which makes little sense. The “quality of supporting timesheets and work dockets” and the level of information included on these documents “varied between contractors” due to the poor paperwork system and insufficiently trained staff. This meant there is “little or no detail” about what exactly what was being paid for in some cases.
In short, it seems that at times money was paid to companies, but nobody can tell what was paid for – there was just an invoice.
The Baker Tilly team interviewed a large number of staff and had more fill in questionnaires about their work. They found “no manager or Senior Executive Buyer was aware of the existence of a Corporate Board Procurement Strategy for the Iarnród Éireann Organisation for Infrastructure Maintenance, Signal Electrical & Telecommunications (SE&T) & New Works” – the departments which procure most work. Furthermore, In three Iarnród Éireann divisions – Athlone, Dublin and Limerick – the Baker Tilly team found:
Detailed procedures followed at the Dublin, Limerick and Athlone Division in relation to the following areas for Infrastructure Maintenance and SE&T are not currently documented:
The request for plant hire/labour by the Permanent Way inspector SE&T Inspector;
The approval of the request and the selection of the contractor;
The valuation of the work for the selected contractor;
The input of the details into SAP [business management software] and the creation of a service entry form, where required; and
The receipt, review and approval of the contractor monies and the release of the service entry
The part of the report about the New Works section lists the procedures which are said to be gone through when labour or plant hire is required. The procedure goes something like;
Relevant managers meet and discuss what work will required for the next few weeks;
The co-ordinator then prepares a detailed spreadsheet to estimate the value of the plant hire and labour being requested;
This is then entered in the SAP system;
The co-ordinator emails the contractors with relevant details;
The work is completed and timesheets are signed by an Iaranrod Eireann representative;
The contractor submits invoices which are reviewed in detail and approved by the co-ordinator, two managers and an accountant
But the sentence after that is… “the above procedures followed by New-Works Construction Unit are not currently documented”. It was the same for other sections also. No paperwork.
In the SE&T section “there was no documented evidence presented [to show]… the actual work performed and invoiced is monitored in accordance with the scheme plans and the tender” and that “an estimate of the work to be performed is not calculated prior to the work being requested from the contractor”. How the hell is that possible?
The most unusual piece activity related to payment, supposedly for the removal of soil, to a company whose details are redacted. I’ll finish by quoting a few paragraphs… they’re worth reading.
As part of the Docklands Station Development Project, work was completed in the freight yard in preparation for the project commencement in 2006. As part of the preparation New Works prepared a tender package in July 2006 for the removal of hazardous and non hazardous soils which were accumulated during the course of construction.
REDACTED tendered for this contract to remove non Hazardous Soil in July 2006 but was unsuccessful and the contracts were awarded to REDACTED. However, invoices were received at a later date from REDACTED for the removal of non-hazardous soil from the area outlined above from January to July 2006. It is the contention of New Works that REDACTED were never tasked with, nor did they perform soil removal activities from the North Wall Freight Yard during the course of the project and they are disputing the full extent of the invoices.
The invoices were signed off by and were paid by accounts payable between January and July 2006 quantified at €257,681.60 gross. The invoices were not matched to any planned work or budget of costs for the project, prior to payment of the invoices. Further invoices were submitted by REDACTED in December 2006 however these were not paid by The Company. We understand that there are currently legal proceedings ongoing with the said company.
Blanket purchase orders are set up on the SAP system at the beginning of each year by the procurement department for general plant hire work in the Infrastructure Maintenance Department. The invoices that are the subject of review were charged against a blanket purchase order and then coded to a capital WBS code.
On review of the invoice insufficient detail was provided and no supporting documentation was available. This made it difficult to determine if the work was actually done, figures provided by REDACTED independent consultant engineers, indicated that the work detailed in the invoices could not have been done as the quantity of soil left over to be removed from site was minimal.
It stinks, and I don’t mean the soil.
FOOTNOTE: CIE isn’t covered by the FOI Act, this document was obtained from the Department of Transport. Therefore, a lot of the dirty details may never come out.