Tuesday 17 September 2019

TDs criticise granting of €14m contract to construction company caught up in 'defective schools' controversy

Western Building Systems constructed an extension at St Joseph’s Primary School in Gorey
Western Building Systems constructed an extension at St Joseph’s Primary School in Gorey

Gabija Gataveckaite

Opposition TDs have criticised the granting of a hospital building contract to a firm which has been caught up in a controversy where serious structural defects were found at 23 schools that it built.

RTÉ News reports today that Western Building Systems has secured the bid to build a 60-bed hospital ward at University Hospital Limerick.

Opposition TDs have criticised the granting of the contract, saying that it is "concerning".

"It is very concerning that a company who is currently being sued by the Department of Education have been awarded the contract for the new ward at University Hospital Limerick," Sinn Féin TD in Limerick Maurice Quinlivan told Independent.ie.

Fianna Fáil TD in Limerick Niall Collins agreed that the awarding of the contract was concerning and that the 60-bed ward has been a long time coming for the hospital.

"Obviously it is a concern that the contract has been awarded to as company which has had issues with the quality of its work recently," he said.

"Limerick has been waiting way too long for a new ward and we need assurances that it'll be built to standard and to specification."

In a statement to Independent.ie, the UL Hospital Group confirmed that the contract was signed in May.

"Earlier this year, the HSE awarded a contract for the provision of a 60-bed Systems Build Ward Block at University Hospital Limerick to Western Building Systems," it reads.

"The proposal to provide a fast track ward block at UHL was initiated during 2018. Following a public procurement process by the HSE, the successful bidder was Western Building Systems.  Funding to progress the project was subsequently included in the HSE Capital Plan 2019."

The new ward is expected to be completed by the end of 2020 and the full cost of the project is estimated to be €19.5 million.

Repair works on 23 of the schools with the most urgent issues began this summer.  

The Irish Independent reported in March that Education Minister Joe McHugh initiated 19 High Court actions against the building firm.

The cost of repairing the defects at all 42 schools is not currently known.

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