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Questions Raised Over Awarding of Tender for 'Bloom in the Park' 2012 Event Management



PREPARATIONS are under way for the five-day Bloom 2012 Festival, Ireland’s largest gardening/horticulture event in the Phoenix Park at the end of May, which is sponsored by Bord Bia. The exhibition contract has been awarded to a new company called Garden Events Ltd, which was incorporated 48 hours before the deadline for tenders.

Interestingly, there turns out to be a number of links between the successful applicant, Garden Events Ltd, and the company which previously held the Bloom contract, Expo Events Ltd, but which was liquidated in September last year. Expo was an established operator incorporated in 1987 and controlled by Gerry Murphy. It was behind a range of shindigs, including the Dublin Boat Show, the Irish Motor Show, Showcase Ireland, etc. However, the downturn in the economy led to significant losses being built up in the company in recent years.

Expo had the contract for Bloom since it was first held in Phoenix Park in 2007. The directors were Gerry Murphy, with an address in Ardeevin Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin, his wife, Jean Murphy and son Alan Murphy, Sorrento Lawn, Dalkey, while a company called Forum Media Projects Ltd held the shares. In the latter company Gerry Murphy holds an 80% stake, with smaller holdings in the name of Alan Murphy, Jean Murphy and Garret Buckley, who had previously been joint md of Expo.

The last accounts for Expo cover the year to the end of April 2010 – the year before its liquidation – at which stage the company was clearly in deep trouble, dropping EU834,000 that year, leaving it with accumulated losses of a hefty Ä3.6m. It is perhaps no surprise then that last September Expo collapsed into liquidation, although assorted companies associated with it remain in existence, like Net Expo Ltd and Magazines Online Ltd, which were sitting on combined losses of EU400,000 in 2011.

Gerry Murphy is also a 50% shareholder in Showcase Ireland Events Ltd, which runs the Crafts Council of Ireland’s big annual Showcase event at the RDS. This company, where Murphy is joined on the board by Crafts Council chairman Laura Magahy, was directly tied to Expo Events and last year paid over EU200,000 to Expo and also pre-paid it almost EU40,000 in relation to the January 2012 event.

The good news for some of those involved with Expo is that a company they decided to incorporate a few weeks before the collapse – Garden Events – has landed the new contract for Bloom. Certainly, the transition should be smooth given the overlaps between Expo and Garden Events, which was only incorporated on August 3, 2011 – two days before the deadline expired for tendering for the lucrative Bloom contract.

The directors of Garden Events are Alan Murphy, who was listed as a director of Expo when it went into liquidation, and former Expo joint-managing director, Garret Buckley. The latter is also a shareholder in the new company, along with John Hick (a former senior executive with Expo), Tara McConnell, Sorrento Lawn in Dalkey, Louise McLoughlin with an address in Swords, Co Dublin, and Wexford-based Anthony Donegan.

Despite the fact that the company was in existence for a mere 48 hours when it applied for Bord Bia’s Bloom contract, Garden Events was deemed the most suitable applicant (the tender was not awarded on the basis of the lowest price tender but rather assorted criteria).

Question: Are Bord Bia satisfied that best practise was adhered to in relation to the awarding of the tender to a company incorporated just 2 days before the tender deadline and did the time span allow Bord Bia to carry out all necessary due diligence needed for the awarding of the contract.

Answer: The short answer to your question is yes – Garden Events Ltd’s tender submission, and all competing submissions, were fully reviewed and assessed by Bord Bia. The tender solely related to the management and coordination of Bloom 2012. With regard to the finances, Bord Bia’s internal finance team manage all of the invoices,tenders and payments relating to Bloom. All revenue streams including ticketing, sponsorship and fees are collected directly by Bord Bia.

Source: The Phoenix - Blooming Success for the Murphys