This morning’s Western Mail reports that Plaid Cymru’s National Chair, John Dixon was paid £10,000 from public funds to provide IT consultancy to Adam Price MP.
Details of the redacted expenses published by the House of Commons reveal that a company called Corwynt was paid a total of £10,129.51 to supervise work on a new computer system in the Ammanford office of Mr. Price, who is the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. Corwynt is an IT consultancy registered at the home of Mr. Dixon in Llanpumsaint and both he and his wife are listed as directors of it at companies house.
Mr. Dixon explains that Adam Price and Rhodri Glyn Thomas, who represents the same constituency in the Welsh Assembly, had decided to create a unified team of caseworkers and as such they needed a new IT system to accomodate this. He was asked to oversee the work.
This sounds all very plausible and there is no evidence to contradict it but the explanation does raise a number of questions and in particular what it was that Adam Price got for his £10,000?
It is the case of course that AMs have computer equipment provided to them for their work and that they are part of a networked system which can not be tied up to any other system because of a firewall. MPs are in a similar position. So whatever work Mr. Dixon was contracted to carry out could not have involved linking up those two systems.
It is perfectly legitimate for AMs and MPs to use their allowances to buy other IT equipment to carry out tasks that their Parliamentary systems cannot deal with. This might involve the maintenance of websites, uploading videos and the design of surgery and other information leaflets as well as software to deal with casework. It would be a simple task to network a couple of PCs and a few printers to enable staff to work together as a team on these tasks. The cost of doing so would come to a few thousand pounds including the cost of hardware and software.
The questions that need to be answered therefore are:
1. Did the £10,000 include the cost of hardware and software?
2. What was the exact nature of the work carried out by Mr. Dixon?
3. If hardware and software were not included in the cost then why did a simple networking task cost so much and what was the additional cost of the equipment?
4. Was a competitive tender sought for the work so as to ensure the taxpayer got value for money?