Dáil watchdog is seeking Tralee bypass cost info

Simon Brouder

The head of the Dáil's influential Finance Committee - which is currently examining the massive cost overruns at the National Children's Hospital - is seeking to blow the lid on the secret compromise agreed between Kerry County Council and contractors BAM regarding the bill for the Tralee bypass.

In 2013 BAM Ireland - the Dutch-owned company hired to build the Children's Hospital - was awarded a €30million contract to construct the Tralee bypass. However, the firm subsequently submitted a claim seeking an additional €46million, excluding VAT, from Kerry County Council.

Before the completion of the Tralee project, BAM was also awarded the contract for the Castleisland bypass. This was initially supposed to cost €14million, but BAM later made a claim for an extra €9.18million.

After lengthy conciliation talks, Kerry County Council (KCC) agreed settlements with BAM regarding both projects, but the terms of the deals - and the actual amounts that were paid out to BAM - have never been revealed publicly by the local authority.

Questioned on the matter in 2015, KCC Chief Executive Moira Murrell said a recommendation from a conciliator had been accepted by both the county council and the main contractor, BAM Civil.

Ms Murrell said that the outcome was "both binding and confidential at this time" adding that the result was a "fair and reasonable outcome" for Kerry County Council and that she was satisfied with it.

At the time, Sinn Féin Cllr Toiréasa Ferris and Deputy John Brassil - then a Kerry councillor - said they couldn't understand how the terms of the deal were secret as it involved public money.

Last month, during an Oireachtas Health Committee debate on the children's hospital, Deputy Brassil once again raised concerns about the Tralee bypass contract and the subsequent confidential deal with BAM.

The issue has now been taken up by the Chairman of the Dáil Finance Committee, Deputy John McGuinness.

Ahead of last Thursday's Finance Committee meeting - which was set to discuss the Department of Public Expenditure's role in the National Children's Hospital project - Deputy McGuinness contacted Transport Minster Shane Ross seeking exact details about the "final cost" of the Tralee bypass scheme.

Minister Ross did not respond with any specific information and instead told Deputy McGuinness that he was referring the question to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).

Ross told Deputy McGuinness that TII should be able to answer to his query about the €76million bypass bill "within 10 working days."