The Department of Agriculture spent €9.9m on external IT consultancies contractors and outsourcing last year.

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, released the figures in response to a parliamentary question recently. In outlining the figures he said: “Information and communications technology (ICT) in the department underpins the administration of €2.5bn in EU and Exchequer funds annually and the maintenance and development of award-winning animal traceability and health computer systems that process millions of births, movements and tests annually.

“The ICT infrastructure and systems underpin the huge range of farming and industry supports as well as providing the animal traceability and food safety systems behind a sector with €26bn in turnover and €10bn in exports. The advanced use of information technology in my department has contributed significantly to the substantial reduction in the cost of running my department from €303m in 2008 to €216m allocated for 2014.”

He added: “My department uses ICT external support to augment our own internal ICT teams primarily in the development and support of a range of major systems. These contractors supply certain specialist ICT services (in particular Java programming and database support) when such proves to be more cost-effective and where sufficient, suitably skilled departmental staff, are not available.

“While the expenditure on ICT external support is significant, it is in line with that of other large organisations that also have a significant operational dependence on ICT and it is also reasonable relative to the scale of our operations. Savings are achieved on an ongoing basis by leveraging maximum value from existing investments, utilising Open EU procurement processes and frameworks, negotiating reductions on contracts and software licences, and careful management of resources for software development.

“This commitment to utilising modern technology has enabled us to do more with less and continue to provide our existing services to the expected high standard whilst also planning for the future of our service delivery in the context of Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy Reform, and our ambitious Food Harvest 2020 growth targets.”

IT companies, which were paid more than €1m in 2013, included: Accenture €1,377,800.02; System Dynamics, €1,091,864.86; Vantage Resources, €1,424,772.06; and Version 1: €2,178,623.55.