Monday 23 September 2019

External review to be carried out into school build scheme

Education Minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Education Minister Joe McHugh. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

An independent review will be carried out into the Design and Build programme at the centre of school safety controversy.

The review, into issues such as building control regulations, workmanship, oversight and procurement, will be conducted by an external expert.

Education Minister Joe McHugh referred to the review at a meeting of the Oireachtas Education Committee yesterday, but he triggered some confusion when he said there would be both an independent inquiry and a review of the building programme.

Western Building Systems (WBS), the Co-Tyrone based contractor at the centre of the controversy, welcomed the commitment from the minister "to an inquiry into the construction of schools and a wider review of the schools building programme".

However, a Department of Education spokesperson clarified there would be a single, independent review, conducted by an external person. The results of the more detailed structural assessments at WBS-constructed schools will inform the review.

The minister was answering questions from TDs and senators about the unfolding saga over structural safety at a number of schools built by WBS over the past decade.

More than half of 42 schools built by WBS have been confirmed as needing remediation work or, at least, precautionary protective measures, pending further investigations.

Committee members quizzed Mr McHugh about a range of matters, including responsibility for certifying the buildings and who would pay the cost of remediation and other necessary works.

The minister said he would be pursuing "every possible channel" to ensure that whatever costs arise around remediation and disruption to schools would be recouped.

He said the issue of self-certification was "the space we need to bring the conversation into now". On the question of the appointment of clerks of works to school building projects since 2017, Mr McHugh said their role was to ensure work continued "and a good clerk of works could be taking photos" but they were not responsible for certification.

The minister said parents of pupils in two schools in Tyrrelstown, west Dublin, which are still closed, will be given the opportunity to visit them today to satisfy themselves they are safe,

Irish Independent

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