Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has criticised the directives contained within the National Framework for procuring transport services.
The directives curtail and confine numerous state agencies and organisations such as HSE, ETB both ETB schools and all other Secondary Schools, An Garda Siochána etc. to procuring or hiring bus transportation from a centralised list framework which will be operated through a Dublin office.
“Whilst we are all for cost saving measures this is taking things to an extreme, the newly published framework, which is a policy initiative of the Department of Public Expenditure is blatantly anti-rural and anti-small business with many small bus operators unable to complete or even meet the qualifying criteria.”
Pat the Cope added in a week when the Government published its Rural Strategy, this policy framework certainly has not been rural proofed, as it fails to understand the scale and complexities of counties such as Donegal.
“This policy will be a nightmare for school principals and other managers to administer and it also will be extremely detrimental to small scale and family operated bus companies’ right throughout the county.
“Policies such as these which are drawn up and implemented from desk top bureaucrats neither understand rural life or have experienced practical day to day running of transport in rural areas- which are far removed from Dublin.”
Pat the Cope stated that “the Department must immediately put in place a derogation for all Secondary and ETB schools and other such organisations which deal with transport within rural areas otherwise we are going to have chaos from an organisational perspective, and furthermore we are going to impose financial hardship on many rural and local bus operators within Donegal.”
“These bus operators are providing an excellent service and provide excellent value for money with the added benefit that all money spent remains local.
“Centralised bus operations simply will not work within Donegal and to undo the current system defies logic as each organisation at present on an annual basis tenders to obtain the best value for their transport needs backed up with a full understanding of the needs of their group/school and the local community.
“I am calling on the Department to modify the framework requirement and provide a practical solution for transport hiring within Donegal rather than attempting to provide a one size fits all directive from upon high”, concluded Pat the Cope.
Leas Cheann Comhairle Gallagher sent a letter to Minister for Public Expenditure Pascal Donoghue yesterday, where he reiterates the concerns highlighted above.
Within the letter, Pat The Cope says “The centralising of procurement of buses and transport services for example for a school in west Donegal wishing to go on a geography field trip some 40 kms down the road to Glenveagh National Park – whereby now that school will have to use the centralised list of operators for the trip.
“That list may or may not have an operator from the immediate area of the school or county even, whilst in principle group procurement leads to savings it may not in this incidence due to the low critical mass of trips/runs for buses. It is also worth noting all schools on an annual basis tender their services locally in order to obtain best value for money and generate savings.
“I am also concerned that a centralised procurement of transport service will exclude many small scale bus operators – family run bus companies which by enlarge provide many of the services to schools and other such organisations at present.
“I propose that a derogation be put in place from the framework for secondary schools across the board on the basis that they tender locally for services each year, on the basis that the framework will cause too many organisational issues to implement within the secondary schools sector, that it would exclude many small and family run bus companies and businesses from the process, that it is anti-rural in its approach and would favour larger operators.
“Therefore I ask you to give favourable consideration to my proposals on this framework and accordingly amend the directives issued to the ETB and Secondary Schools sector.