Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon is to ask the Oireachtas Arts Committee to call the Arts Council to appear before it over its decision to cancel a communications tender four months after it commenced the process.
Deputy Gannon, who is the party’s spokesperson for the Arts, said:
“On June 30, the Arts Council advertised a tender for badly needed communications advice as it has been a disaster during the pandemic in its dealings with artists. Communications agencies, many of them small businesses, applied in good faith.
“The tender said the agency would commence work in August 2020. Even though the assessment and evaluations must have taken place after four months, last week the Arts Council sent out a notice to say it had terminated the competition without the awarding of a contract. It gave a very strange reason, which was that it was setting up a new comms group to produce a strategy for the Arts Council.
“The Council needs to account for several matters. In the Sunday Times today, it has given a new reason for cancelling the communications tender. Last week, it said the reason for cancelling the tender was because it had set up a new communications group internally. Today, however, it says it was for cost reasons.
“I will be asking the Arts Committee to call Arts Council Chair Kevin Rafter, Director Maureen Kennelly and Director of Public Affairs and Communications Sean Mac Cárthaigh to appear before it.
“The Arts Council also needs to explain why the first time it told its staff that it had cancelled the tender and set up a communications working group of its own was the same day I raised it in the Dáil.
“The Council also should clarify why a survey it is now doing on communications is limited to its own board and staff. Surely asking oneself is not the best way to get feedback or is the Council afraid to ask artists as it knows the depressing response it will get?
“I remain of the view that this cancellation of the contract by the Arts Council in unusual circumstances requires an independent investigation and I await a response to my call for one from the Minister for the Arts.
“An inquiry is all the more urgent after today’s newspaper report that Arts Council cancelled the process due to costs. An inquiry should look for all papers and records on the tender process, which wasted the time of small businesses.”
October 11, 2020