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Over €3m 'down the drain' after 'comedy of errors' on new pathology office

Nearly €2 million was spent on consultancy during the construction of the new facilities that were only partially built before being demolished last year, the Public Accounts Committee heard yesterday.

State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy and garda officials (File photo)
State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy and garda officials (File photo)
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE has been accused of a “comedy of errors” and of sending taxpayers’ money “down the drain” on an abandoned project to build new offices for the State Pathologist.

The Oireachtas Committee heard how €4.1 million was spent on proposed new facilities in Marino, north Dublin for the State Pathology Service and the Dublin Corner’s office, but the project was abandoned in 2012 after the developer building it went into receivership.

The partially constructed building was demolished last year and, after recouping a developer’s bond, the total net spend by the State on the abandoned project was €3.3 million.

Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell said that taxpayers’ money had effectively “gone down the drain” while Labour TD Gerald Nash said that the whole management of the project indicated there has been a “comedy of errors”.

The committee heard that over €300,000 was spent on security at the construction site in the period between the project stalling and the building being demolished altogether, a process which itself cost over €52,000.

The committee also heard how over €1.8 million was spent on consultancy during the course of the project, though department secretary general Brian Purcell defended this, insisting these were “not consultancy costs”.

‘Lack of oversight’

He said that this money included payment for architects, surveyors and external engineers on the abandoned project.

Nash said he was “seriously concerned about the lack of oversight” from the Department. Purcell said that abandoning it was “an unfortunate consequence of the economic downturn”, saying it would have proceeded had it not been for the developer going into receivership.

The committee heard how, having identified a site in 2006, the Department of Justice agreed to fund two-thirds of the project with Dublin County Council, which was providing the site, meeting the balance of construction costs.

However the project hit a number of snags. In 2007, the Department of Environment objected to the location of the site as it was adjacent to the Casino at Marino, an 18th century neo-classical building.

This delayed the process for a year before tendering issues prevented construction from getting under way until July 2010. Then in November of that same year the developer, McNamara Construction, went into receivership, leaving a partially completed structure.

By the time legal issues over tendering were resolved the Department did not have sufficient funding to proceed with the project resulting in it being abandoned.

The State Pathologist and the Dublin Coroner’s offices are currently in prefabricated buildings on the Malahide Road in Marino, but a process is under way to move them into the former garda station building in Whitehall.

Read: State Pathologists could move from portacabins into vacant garda station

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Hugh O'Connell

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