Child and family agency Tusla spent just under €600,000 on translation services using non-official channels in 2019.
The agency had an overall total spend for procurement outside State guidelines of €7,137,247 in the same year, according to its chief executive Bernard Gloster.
This was an increase of €1.7m over the same figure posted for 2018.
Tusla, the agency which succeeded various child and family services overseen by the HSE in 2014, was responding to a query from the Public Accounts Committee as to the extent with which it is in compliance with national procurement guidelines.
The largest non-compliant expense for Tusla was for cleaning services, on which €1.1m was spent with seven different agencies, Mr Gloster said.
Security services cost an additional €1m, with agency workers from established recruitment specialists CPL accounting for an additional €695,000 over the 12-month period.
Some €598,826 was spent on the services of four separate translation agencies, with a further €566,000 spent on consultancy services for initiatives such as “leadership development and training programmes”.
Other such consultant-led programmes included caseload management, services for foster care assessments, and “services for attachment training and child and family trauma”.
In his response to the PAC’s query, Mr Gloster acknowledged that “there are issues with procurement processes” and said that the agency continues “to monitor compliance and disclose information”.
“There is a very significant deficit in the digital and ICT platforms that would be expected in an organisation of Tusla’s size to support the financial and procurements processes,” he said.
He said Tusla’s internal procurement processes were reliant on the HSE’s Health Business Services function, which itself in turn liaises with the Office of Government Procurement.
He said there were a number of reasons for the level of non compliance seen at Tusla, where such expenditure in 2019 amounted to 3.4% of its total outlay of €207.2m.
Procurement in general at the agency is “heavily dependent” on self-reporting, he said, due to an “underinvestment in ICT systems”.
“It has not been possible to manage procurement on a single platform in the agency,” he said, adding that many individual services located at local level are themselves lower than the €25,000 threshold which requires an official tender, but which cross that line when assessed cumulatively for the entire country.
“Significant expenditures” within Tusla are for social, health and cultural services, he said, areas for which a “normal competitive market does not exist in Ireland”.
Mr Gloster added that procurement activity is “complex” and must adhere to legislation, including EU directives and the GDPR.