“Veil of Secrecy” over “VanGate”

Eoghan Dalton Reports
A Sinn Féin Councillor says there is a “veil of secrecy” surrounding a fleet of vans purchased by Waterford City and County Council.
The local authority replaced its fleet of vans in one go last year with the purchase of over 60 vehicles at a cost of €1.4 million without authorisation from senior management. However Council executives have insisted the high price is due to one-third of the contract having to be put toward maintenance of the fleet over a period of five years.

Concerned: Cllr Declan Clune.

Concerned: Cllr Declan Clune.

Cllr Declan Clune requested a copy of the tender at the last Plenary Council meeting, but having since received it he is unhappy with aspects of the file. Among these are the including of automatic transmission for the vans, an addition he told the Council can add over €2,000 extra to each vehicle.
“The reason I wanted to look at it is that I know of some anomalies in the specifications of the vehicles, such as an automatic transmission. When I went through the tender documents the automatic transmission was listed as an option, not as a standard requirement. You would have the standard specifications of the vehicle, but automatic transmission was certainly not one of them,” he said, before adding:

“I was hoping as well to get the actual documents awarding the tender, but I have been told there is commercial sensitivity around that. It’s public money so it should be available to see what gets spent, where and on what basis.”

The Comeragh representative repeated his call for a delayed report from the Council’s audit committee. “The Government auditor who flagged a lot of this information was under the impression the committee had reported to the council, but they haven’t. We need a full picture, so how we can be asked to stand over the budget when there’s a veil of secrecy over the content and everything surrounding this issue with the vans.
“All we want is transparency, we fully expect and we want the money to be spent properly but until we get all the info we can’t say that for sure. We don’t know exactly what the process was, what the issues indicate and highlighted by the Government auditor were, and there’s just very little transparency around the process at the moment,” he said.
The audit committee is expected to provide an update at the next Plenary meeting later this week.

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