'Comedy of errors' cost taxpayers €4.1m
MORE than €4.1m in taxpayers' money "effectively went down the drain" after "a comedy of errors" led to plans for a new office for the State Pathologist and Dublin Coroner being scrapped, the Dail's spending watchdog has heard.
Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) were deeply critical of the series of events that led to the project being scrapped.
The failure of the plan has left State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy and her colleagues operating out of a set of prefabs in the carpark beside the Fire Brigade Training Centre in Marino, Dublin.
The committee heard yesterday that the Department of Justice and Dublin City Council decided in 2006 to build a new medico-legal centre facility in Marino.
This was to have included new autopsy and body storage facilities, a mortuary and other accommodation.
It was agreed the department would fund two-thirds of the cost of the new centre, with the council providing the site at its facility in Marino and funding the balance of one-third of the construction costs.
The council also took the lead role in project management.
However, within a month, the project was held up after an objection was raised by the Department of the Environment over concerns about its proximity to the 18th-Century Marino Casino – considered one of the most important neo-classical buildings in Ireland.
Officials from the Department of Justice told the committee it took a year for those concerns to be ironed out and tenders were invited in August 2008.
However, the winning bidder, McNamara Construction, went into receivership in November 2010 – by which stage only the shell of the building had been completed.
The committee heard EU procurement rules meant that another building firm could not be simply brought in to complete the project and that it would have to be tendered for again.
But by that stage the department did not have the funding.
"We simply didn't have the money to proceed with the project," said Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell.
The committee heard the shell of the building had since been knocked down due to health and safety concerns.
PAC member Ged Nash described the sequence of events as "a comedy of errors".
"I am seriously concerned about the level of oversight the department had in this project," the Labour TD added.