Thursday 5 December 2019

Unclear if anyone will face sanctions for blunder as costs for Dáil printer controversy hit €1.8m

Leinster House. Photo: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
Leinster House. Photo: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
Report: Peter Finnegan, clerk of the Dáil. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The cost of a printing machine that was too big for Dáil offices and building works linked to its installation have hit €1.8m - but it's unclear whether anyone will face sanctions for the blunder.

There was severe criticism of the issue at the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after it got a report on the purchase from the clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan.

The report outlined almost €1.8m in costs - but did not say who was responsible or get to the bottom of exactly how the mistake occurred.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry argued the purchase had been a "total pig's ear" and claimed there are "no tangible sanctions" in the public sector for "blatant incompetence". "In this instance, people are entitled to look for a head," he said.

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Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane branded the purchase "a mess from start to finish" and said: "It's not clear in this report who exactly made mistakes."

Serious questions have been raised about the purchase of the €808,000 printer after it emerged structural work had been required to install it, at significant extra cost.

The new printer in situ
The new printer in situ

Mr Finnegan's report says that the total cost of printing equipment including the printer itself, folding machines, guillotines and other items came to €1,369,605. Work needed so that the printer would fit in the room is projected to cost around €229,000.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) also took the opportunity to carry out other "necessary works" on the building while the contractor was on site at an estimated cost of €195,000.

The report details how the original tender documents said the machine must be able to fit in a room that was 2.5 metres high. It outlined how the company that ultimately sold the printer, Komori UK Ltd, observed in its response document that the head room "is limited".

The company subsequently sent an email on April 25, 2018, which included a drawing that outlined a recommended ceiling height of 3.16 metres.

Mr Finnegan's report says: "I have yet to establish how or if this information was processed within the Houses of the Oireachtas Service." The contract for the purchase was signed on May 31, 2018.

Mr Finnegan said he was satisfied the machine bought was "necessary and appropriate to meet the current and future needs" of the Oireachtas printing service.

He says "the requirements of the building and other regulations in relation to 'head height' were neither understood nor examined during the critical early stages of the project". He suggested such a project requires specialist expertise at all stages and this must be a consideration in all future projects. He adds that it was his opinion that "significant structural adaptations would have been necessary in any event" given Oireachtas printing requirements.

The PAC wants further information from the Oireachtas and the OPW by December 10.

The printer is not yet in use due to concerns raised by staff who are said to be seeking training. PAC member Mr Cullinane claimed that there had been no consultation with staff before the purchase.

An Oireachtas spokesperson said "training is a normal part of the working week" but added: "We don't discuss staff issues."

Asked whether anyone will face sanctions over the issue, the spokesperson did not address the question directly.

She said she was "limited in what I can reply with given that PAC said it was going to seek further information from the accounting officer [Mr Finnegan]".

Irish Independent

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