The HSE, in response to a query by TD Carol Nolan, has confirmed to them that they do not possess any copies of Kinzen’s contracts with the Department of Health.
The Department of Health has previously claimed, in response to an FOI request, that they had lost all records of the contract following a cyber-attack in May. It remains unclear how a cyber-attack in May could destroy records in July and October of the same year, or why a printed copy of the contracts cannot be found.
Kinzen, which was founded by former journalist, and current wife of Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Aine Kerr, and former RTE presenter Mark Little, was paid by the Department of Health to conduct social media monitoring of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. The contract with Kinzen was awarded, in the words of Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, “outside of normal tendering processing.”
Kinzen’s work with the Department of Health saw them paid nearly 110,000 for nine months in 2021, but records relating to Kinzen’s remuneration for their work with the Department in late 2020 appear to have also been lost by the Department of Health.
Whilst the HSE doesn’t appear to have ever directly contracted Kinzen’s services they were certainly involved in Kinzen’s work with the Department of Health – Kinzen’s social media monitoring services were used by the HSE’s ill-fated misinformation reporting programme and it appears HSE staff attended regular meetings with Kinzen staff. Gript had hoped, given the Department’s inability to find their own paperwork, that the HSE might have a copy.
In December Gript wrote directly to Mark Little and Aine Kerr, co-founders of Kinzen, asking if they could provide us with a copy of the contracts. We pointed out that those contracts would likely have been released to us through the FOI process, so their non-release was a direct impact of criminal acts against the State, and that given the importance Kinzen’s work places on transparency we thought they might be willing to voluntarily disclose the contracts.
Unfortunately, we have yet to receive a response.