Dept of Communications’ dodgy hiring policy for the National Broadband Scheme hurts us all

As pointed out on by the user clohamon, union officials did a Freedom of Information request about the rehiring of what basically was a college work experience student to become a “consultant” on the National Broadband Scheme. It seems her and one person from ComReg are looking after this multi-million euro scheme. The job was never advertised. The two issues here with this are her relative inexperience while working on what is apparently the most important project in that section in the next two years but to me even more seriously the way that she was just handed the job and no outsiders or even insiders were told of this job. This National Broadband Scheme is meant to get 10s or maybe 100s of 1000s of people broadband and once again the way it’s been put together has been very mickey mouse in professionalism.

The FOI document (PDF) is here.

(The documents were scanned into a PDF so I can’t copy and paste so retyped them instead. There will be typos)

We really need to start here on August 20th 2007 when the PSEU (Public Service Executive Union) wrote to Eamonn Molloy, head of procurement in the Department. Here’s the transcript of the letter (It’s page 21 in the PDF):

Dear Eamonn,

The PSEU Branch Committee would like to enquire as to the process for the appointment of XX, previously employed as a Stagiaire in COmmunications (Development) Division.

We understand that XX’s contract expired in May 2007. She is now however working once again in Communications (Development) Division, we believe as a consultant.

In accordance with the Public Procurement Guidelines 2004;-

* Supplies and services less than €5000 may be secured on the basis of verbal quotes from one or more competitive suppliers
* Supplies or service contracts between €5000 to €50,000 may be awarded on the basis of responses to specifications sent to at least 3 service providers;
* Contracts above €50,000 and up to the value of EU thresholds should be advertised as part of a formal rendering process

The Branch Committee requests details of which of the above procurement processes were undertaken leading to XX’s appoitment, including the number of tenders sought, the experience and expertise set out in the specification, the duration of the contract in question and the remunersation attaching to the position.

It is the understanding of the PSEU Branch Committee that the main purpose of establishing the Stagiaire Scheme throughout the Civil Service was to recruit third level students and recent graduates to recognised administrative grades in the Civil Service through short-term work experience. Re-employment of Stagiaires either as consultants or in any other atypical capacity totally undermines this fundamental intention of the Stagiaire Scheme.

We would also reiterate the PSEU Head Office query concering the employment of a former Stagiaire immediately subsequent to the expiry of a a Stagiaire contract. Could you clarify please, on what basis can this Department award a constlancy contract to someone who has just completed work experience programme in the Department?

The PSEU Branch Committee would appreciate an early response in this matter please.

Yours sincerely,
Lorraine O’Donoghue
PSEU Branch Secretary

Then they respond to this on October 10th (Page 31 of PDF):

To: Ms. Ciara Bates

Cc: Mr. Peter O’Neill, Mr. Eamonn Molloy, Mr. Dave Hanley

From: Ken Spratt

Date: 10 October 2007

Re: National Broadband Scheme Resources – XX

1. The PSEU recently wrote to Mr. Molloy enquiring about the employment of XX on the national Broadband Scheme (NBS). The following facts may be useful on considering an appropriate reply to the PSEU.

2. In October 2006, Minister Dempsey directed that a NBS be out in train, Given the complexities involved, Minister Dempsey felt that ComReg’s telecommunications expertise should facilitate the implementation of the NBS. The Minister decided that the NBS was the main priority for the Communications area for 2007/2008 and agreed that the Department would meet the cost of any outiside consultants required by either ComReg or the Department to deliver the NBS.

3. On 16 October 2007 [<< wrong date here] I met with Mr. Hanley and Mr. O'Neill to discuss (i) the lack of resources in may area to handle existing priorities and (ii) the need for additional resources for the NBS (1 AP 1 AO/HEO). It was explained to me that the general shortage of resources meant that all divisions in the Department were under resources and that no further resources would be made available to me. I explained that this was disappointing, unacceptable and un-sustainable and that I would have to explore other avenues for securing the resources required to meet the demands of the section. 4. Later in October 2006, in order to address the lack of resources I re-assigned YY (Analyst on secondment from ComReg) and XX to the new NBS. Their previous briefs were, with difficulty, re-assigned to other members of my Division. 5. Both XX and YY have built up considerable expertise that is critical to the smooth running ot the NBS procurement project. In Decemnber 2006, I was faced with the prospect of YY returning to ComReg. Thankfully, we were able to extende her secondment to the end of 2007. This date now looming and will need to be addressed. I will contact you separately in this regard.) 6. In April 2006, I advised Mr. O'Neill that Xx was due to finish on 23 May 2006. It was not possible to extend her Stagiaire contract. I advised Mr. O'Neill that, given the lack of a replacement resource, I would like to find some way of retaining XX. I highlighted that I intended to hire her as a consultant and that, in accordance with section 5.1 of the Public Procurement Guidelines, I wished to record that a competitive process would not be appropriate. Going to procurement would not have resulted in securing a resource with the required knowledge of the NBS. In any event, the rate negotiated with XX was excellent value for money. 7. In summary: * The NBS is the key priority (multi-million € project( in my Division during 2007/2008 * Minister Dempsey directed that the required budget for consultants required to deliver the project should be secured and that such consuultants should be engaged * The required resources were not available within the Department * A competitive process was not deemed to be appropriate * The Public Procurement Guidelines recognise that competitive processes are not always appropriate 8 I would be happy to meet with you to discuss Regards, Ken Spratt

The email above highlights a Department that is falling apart. There are many stories coming out about the Dept of Comms where they are hugely under-resourced and only new hires or replacement of leavers can be hired in Cavan. The Dublin office is allegedly in bits. Our broadband future is now apparently being managed by someone on loan from ComReg and someone just finished their masters in Galway. I’m sure that makes the public and industry really happy. Maybe that’s why the maps for the national broadband scheme are a heap of shit? It also shows a fantastic level of arrogance too in regards to ignoring guidelines.

If you look at page 26 of the PDF you’ll see what the Department of Finance guidelines on such things say. They suggest that three people should be asked to tender but this is not mandatory. They also suggest that even if the tender is below €50,000 it be put on the eTenders website. This job appears not to have been sent to anyone but this girl and it was not on the eTenders website. No rules however were broken. Because the rules are really loose aren’t they?

You can read the winning bid (no other were looked at) and the CV of this girl on page 9 of the PDF. She states there are no conflicts of interest but I would think having been previously working in the Dept on this project and being asked to apply for this job, this in effect is a conflict. But then there is no conflict if there are no others going to be impacted negatively. I’m guessing the equivalent wage when she worked as staff was about 30k a year so as a consultant it would be worth a little more than that. Nice work especially when you are just handed it.

Edit: Someone reminded me I applied for a ComReg job that was to do with this. They turned me down as others were better qualified. A work experience student?

11 Responses to “Dept of Communications’ dodgy hiring policy for the National Broadband Scheme hurts us all”

  1. Now consider this–the website blocks crawlers that I use to catch updates. The British company behind the site claim the blocking policy ensures better site reliability. So even if the jobs you cite were advertised, you’d have to be a regular visitor to spot the online advertisement.

  2. Evert Bopp says:

    So let me get this right:

    1) With all their money, “knowledge” & expertise Comreg still has to hire a panel of external consultants to come up with suggestions on how to solve the broadband issue.
    2) They hire someone on a work placement to manage the NBS?

    Un-f*cking believable…
    In light of that I think you will enjoy the following link:

  3. Cormac says:

    I am surprised that you are surprised , frankly .

    She probably knows more than Eamonn Ryan does all the same even though she was _still in secondary school _ when Eamonn was opposition spokesman on Communications in the Dáil and was supposedly shadowing Dermot Ahern.

  4. Brian says:

    heh. I had a placement as part of my course, and I believe I was interviewed by this student and another member of staff. They seemed capable, but I doubt anyone without a few more years in the ‘real world’ could handle this project. But my judgement is based mostly on presumptions and assumptions.

    In the interests of disclosure, I was turned down for the placement on the basis that “I didn’t want the job enough”. Whatever that meant.

  5. Darragh says:

    As Cormac says, the girl probably has a lot more knowledge than many of those in “power” but still, it’s funny to see that despite all the tribunals, the unions, the guidelines and the fact that more and more capable people are coming to the fore through blogs etc, the people that get the important jobs are the ones who know the people recruiting for them…

    But hey, we get what we put up with.

    Well done Damien on pointing this out.

  6. […] Read Mulley’s post which provides more detail on the specific hiring practices that are so objectionable […]

  7. smoke says:

    Of course, all the union gives a shit about is that the fact that some of their members didn’t get a fair crack at the job. While they may be doing the taxpayer a service by exposing a questionable procurement process, I wouldn’t for a minute think they had the public interest in mind at any stage.

  8. Damien says:

    @Smoke Totally agree

  9. Darragh says:

    Interesting to see what’s happening elsewhere as well:

    SYDNEY – Telstra says the main reason it is able to now activate its high speed ADSL2+ broadband network is because of a change in Government.

    Telstra said last week it was able to connect the fast broadband service at more than 900 telephone exchanges serving 2.4 million consumers after new Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told it there was no compelling case for regulating third-party access to the service.

  10. Talk about being in the right place at the right time for the “consultant” She’s getting fantastic experience even if some of the consultancy work is of a secretarial nature.!
    Does the 2nd person from Comreg have relevant experience?

    Great post and some great comments and identifies why broadband is such a mess in Ireland. I even advise clients to check if a potential (smaller )employer has broadband before accepting job offers!.

    What were they thinking of? Appears to be a lack of management and strategic thinking.

  11. barry says:

    Again, like Sarah’s post, on the ball, great post, union disinterest in getting good people, etc., etc. BUT, what can we actually DO about this total fuckup?? It cannot be allowed to continue, can we re-establish Ireland Offline or the like, please…..