Friday 6 December 2019

€808,000 Dáil printer bought due to 'concerns over chemicals in old machines'

Major source of concern: Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy
Major source of concern: Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The controversial Dáil printer was bought due to concerns in the human resources department over chemicals used for the old machines, a member of the body that oversees the running of the Oireachtas has said.

Despite this, staff are refusing to use the printer amid a dispute over training to operate the €808,000 machine, which was too big to fit in Oireachtas offices.

The Dáil's spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has launched a probe into the purchase of the printer that required walls to be torn down in Kildare House incurring extra costs reported to be as much as €400,000.

Questions are now being raised about the cost of an air-conditioning system that is believed to have been installed as part of the work.

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Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan is expected to deliver a report on the printer purchase to the PAC this morning.

The committee members will then decide whether or not to go and view the machine and the building it is housed in for themselves.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, a member of the PAC and oversight body the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, said the costs are a "major source of concern" and the situation is "infuriating".

She said the commission has not been given information on the industrial relations dispute and it's something it will want to explore. Ms Murphy said it will be dealt with through the unions and the HR department, but said the issue was "disappointing".

"The machine was partly purchased to deal with HR concerns in relation to old machines and the kinds of chemicals that were used," she said. "This [new machine] would be far more environmentally friendly so I'm hoping that's going to be a factor in resolving this in as quick a timeline as possible."

Another PAC member, Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, said the committee has yet to be provided with the details of the full costs of the printer and its installation.

He said that Mr Finnegan previously told the committee it would cost €1.3m and suggested that around €500,000 of this is not yet explained given the cost of the machine itself was €808,000.

He also said it was his understanding an air-conditioning system had to be installed as part of the works and questioned if this was separate from the €1.3m. Mr Cullinane said Mr Finnegan needs to be "very clear what the total cost is". He added: "There's a lot of questions and it's a printer that's still not being used."

An Oireachtas spokesperson said she would not be in a position to comment until Mr Finnegan has submitted his report to the PAC.

Irish Independent

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