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State agency 'has questions to answer' over tender process for Meath factory

The cost of refurbishing the factory is expected to reach more than €3 million, triple the original commitment.

Image: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

THE BOARD OF a State agency has been called on to explain how “shortcomings” in its tender process for a Meath factory happened and how the cost of refurbishing the premises almost tripled.

Yesterday TheJournal.ie revealed Údarás na Gaeltachta is expected to be billed more than €3 million for the refurbishment of a State-factory in the small Gaeltacht area of Gibbstown.

The agency, which is responsible for the economic, social and cultural development of Gaeltacht areas, had originally committed to a €1.2 million investment to renovate the premises so it could be rented to plastics company Novelplast.

Údarás na Gaeltachta has admitted there were “shortcomings” in the tender process and said it has taken steps to ensure it does not happen again. The agency said that despite the increased cost, it is confident the State is receiving “value for money”. 

It has said additional costs arose due to difficulties with the building’s roof and electrical supply, as well as emergency works after storm damage and specific requirements made by the tenant company. 

The company, Novelplast, says its specific requirements were “minor” and it will be covering those costs. 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform did not respond to a request for comment on the overspend and the acknowledged shortcomings in the tendering process.  

Local politicians have said they believe people in the small Gaeltacht area, which has a population of just 1,800, will be frustrated to hear about the overspending. 

Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne told TheJournal.ie that he believes Údarás na Gaeltachta needs to provide a more detailed explanation of how the costs rose to such an extent.

“It just seems a huge amount of money to spent, you’d have to question whether they’re getting value for money. People in the local area will be very annoyed about this because they’re crying out for basic things like footpaths. If there are millions available, there are better things it could be spent on.”

Byrne said there is little evidence from the outside of the the factory of any significant improvements. 

He said the agency’s admission of shortcomings in the tender process is “unbelievable”.

They need to fully explain what they mean by shortcomings. I plan on writing to them demanding full answers. The board of Údarás needs to urgently explain what has happened.
This Gaeltacht area really needs attention, and the investment is welcome, bringing jobs to the area is welcome, but it is disappointing for the community to see this level of overspending when they’re so in need of facilities.

When asked about the increased cost, Údarás na Gaeltachta has said significant difficulties with the building’s roof and electrical supply came to light as works progressed. It also said emergency works arose from storm damage, “resulting in material health and safety issues that needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency”.

Údarás na Gaeltachta’s Board approved €1.2 million for the initial works, and an additional €600,000 was further approved by the Board to address the health and safety and electrical supply issues.
Specific works required and requested by the tenant company in relation to its production needs are being charged directly to the company. All of the spend on this project has arisen from requirements around the factory infrastructure and the tenant company’s specific needs, and all of the required spend has been approved.

The agency said the shortcomings in the tendering process were due “primarily to time-pressures arising from the significant initial growth and development of the company and the need to progress the project at a pace that would not impact on the company’s employment and production development”.

Neil Skeffington, CEO of Novelplast, said his company had made specific requirements for additional work related to its production process, but he said these requirements were “minor”. He said the firm has agree to pay for those works. 

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