#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 13°C Monday 28 September 2020
Advertisement

Clerk defends Oireachtas printer purchase and says it makes 'financial sense'

The clerk of the Dáil said the business case for buying the printer is still sound.

THE DÁIL CLERK has today defended the business case for purchasing the controversial and costly Oireachtas printer. 

He said the purchase made “financial sense” because the two old printers, which were purchased in 2004, were costing €65,000 a year in repair, maintenance and spare parts. 

The clerk, Peter Finnegan, told committee members that he stands over his statement that the business case is still sound. 

Yesterday, TheJournal.ie revealed that the overall cost to the State for the printing press ordered by the Oireachtas is over €2 million. 

The total cost runs to €2,020,143, over €500,000 more than was anticipated. 

The business case for buying the new printer put forward in 2017 was that it would cost €1.5 million.

Total costs to be funded by the Houses of the Oireachtas for the printer is €1,798,818 (inclusive of VAT). However, taking in costs to the OPW, the costs escalated.

However, the Komori printing press will continue to accrue maintenance costs, the clerk said today. 

For the first two years, there are no maintenance fees. In year three, maintenance fees cost €16,000, in year four, maintenance fees will cost €21,000 and in year five, the fees will cost €25,000.

The printer has an expected life-span of 12 to 15 years. The leasing option was not considered, the committee was told today. 

The initial report from Dáil clerk Peter Finnegan concluded that the requirements of the building and other regulations in relation to “head height” where the room was meant to be stored, were neither “understood nor examined at the critical early stages of the project”.

It resulted in structural works being carried out to ensure the printer fitted in the room. The Dáil printer is yet to be operational. 

The clerk confirmed today that the team evaluating the tender for the Oireachtas printer “actually missed the statement on the bottom of the page which said the head height was limited”. 

Appearing before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee this afternoon, Finnegan said: 

We are not an organisation that has the luxury of installing equipment in a green field site. We are not Google down in the docks. We are an organisation that functions from Dublin 2 in very cramped conditions and invariably costs arise as a result of that.

He said the Leinster House complex faces challenges in relation to accommodation.

When major equipment installation is required, it invariably involves structural works, he said.

Finnegan pointed out that when two printers were bought in 2004, structural works were required and cost twice as much as the construction works for the current printer.  

He said there are “very cramped conditions and invariably costs arise front that”. 

clerk

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane questioned the clerk about why the issue of costs was not raised with the committee back in July when the accounts for the Houses of the Oireachtas were being discussed. 

“I gave the best answers I could at the time,” the clerk told the committee. He said he had a limited amount of information in relation to the cost overruns that day. 

Cullinane said it “would have been better” if the clerk had alerted the committee about the issues that had arisen with the printer. 

The clerk said he did not intentionally withhold any information from the committee, for which Cullinane said he was implying that Finnegan consciously did so.

Finnegan said he tried to answer all the questions at the July meeting to “the best of his ability”. 

He said he understood the public anger out there about the project, stating “it is a lot of money”. He added that no one can say that the project was well managed. 

Speaking about the mistakes made, Finnegan said “honest human errors” were made. He said the absence of having an architectural input on the evaluation team was probably the main issue. 

In his view, had there been architectural input at that stage, the issue of head height would have been identified “right at the start” and “would have impacted on the business case”.

“We would have a truer cost for these works which would have been incorporated in the business case,” he said. 

Other mistakes included that drawings of the room and the head height which were emailed on to the team “didn’t trigger or raise any alarm bells”.  

“There was a series of mistakes,” he said. 

Fianna Fáil’s Shane Cassells asked the clerk if discussions with the Komori company had taken place in relation to liability. 

Finnegan told the committee that he met with the company agent and was told that as Komori had flagged the head height issues in the tender, as well as emailing drawings with mentions of the head height concerns it would be the view of the firm that “if the customer is happy, Komori will supply the printer, and the legal obligation is on the customer”. 

Having consulted with legal experts, the clerk said due to the warnings issued by Komori, there is no breach of contract in this case. 

“That unfortunately is the reality,” he said. 

Given the circumstances, other avenues are being investigated by the clerk, including getting an “ex-gratia payment or gesture to the Houses of the Oireachtas in relation this machine”. 

Read next:

COMMENTS (45)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel