An intervention from a high-profile Irish politician assisted an Ennis company in becoming the biggest supplier of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the HSE last year and obtaining €87m in the process.
In June of last year, The Clare Echo reported that EKO Integrated Services Ltd which at the time employed a total of twelve people, was providing the most PPE to the Health Service Executive (HSE) of all Irish companies.
This week it emerged following a report by The Sunday Times that Tipperary TD Alan Kelly (LAB) emailed HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid and head of procurement Seán Bresnan to recommend the use of EKO Integrated Services to source PPE from China. This came at a time when the HSE were making urgent preparations as the pandemic was beginning to take hold.
An email from the former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government dated March 26th alerted HSE officials that EKO was capable of sourcing PPE from China, supplying medical equipment and building modular intensive care unit rooms in the space of ten weeks, in tandem with a Chinese company.
Kelly’s correspondence stressed that the matter was “time sensitive” so the HSE had to “get in touch straight away” to avail of what EKO could offer. The Labour Party leader had previously been in favour of the Ennis company’s plans to develop the Abbey Court hotel in Nenagh for residential development.
By the end of October, the HSE had spent €87.87m with EKO, ordering millions of gloves, gowns and goggles within days of Deputy Kelly’s email. Another €1.75m is to be given to EKO later this month by the health authorities.
Complaints had been lodged by Crumlin’s Children Hospital that the gowns provided by EKO had packaging saying they were not for medical use, the Sunday Times reported. This was described as a translation error by the Clare company. No issues had been raised by the HSE with the quality of the PPE obtained from EKO.
A spokesperson for EKO said the company was not affiliated to any political party or politician. “EKO feels a sense of pride and privilege to have been in the right place at the right time to deliver considerable emergency supplies when the need was at its greatest in Ireland.”
Situated at Áras Smith O’Brien, Bank Place, Ennis, company filings from 2018 detailed that EKO had net assets of €221,000. Its Chief Executive is Eugene Keane, a former director of Keco Construction which had liabilities of €33.1m after it entered receivership in 2010.