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Controversial Oireachtas printer to cost the State over €2 million

The mistakes made were ‘honest mistakes’ the latest reports states.

THE OVERALL COST to the State for the controversial and costly printing press ordered by the Oireachtas is over €2 million. 

A letter from the clerk of the Dáil to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee seen by TheJournal.ie gives an overall breakdown of the costs of the new printer, the works that needed to be carried out on the room to ensure it fitted, the cost of outsourcing printing while the new printer is out of action, as well as the cost of storing the printer. 

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 for general upgrade works of €221,325, the costs escalate.

At the end of last month, the initial report from Dáil clerk Peter Finnegan concluded that the requirements of the building and other regulations in relation to “head height” were neither “understood nor examined at the critical early stages of the project”.

In the updated information, Finnegan gives more detail on the process of purchasing the printer, stating that he has spoken to the principal parties involved in the project to procure the Komori printing press.

He states that that having reviewed all relevant documentation he believes the business case for buying the printer is “still sound”.

“There is absolutely no denying that a series of mistakes were made during the project. These are outlined and explained in this report. However, I am satisfied, that the mistakes arose from human error. They were honest mistakes and made by staff who were seeking to improve the printing services for Members,” states Finnegan.

Going into more detail about how mistakes were made in relation to the head height of the room the printer was meant to fit, Finnegan notes that there are different platform levels on the printer.

The print room height is 2.5m, the printer height at the highest platform is 1.554m, but the extra height required to meet the regulations on safe working height is 0.754m
where a staff member is standing on the highest platform.

Finnegan confirms that Komori, the manufacturer of the printer, was the only tender received by April 2018. The company confirmed the requirement that “the press must be able to fit into a room (L12m WS.8m H2.Sm) with an acceptable work area around the press”.

However, Komori also inserted a note as follows:

“The head room from the Press foot boards to the ceiling is limited”.

“I am advised that this note was missed by the evaluation team,” said Finnegan. He states meetings were subsequently held with company and the minutes of the meeting show that no concerns were raised during the meeting about head height. 

Finnegan said a number of emails were also sent, which included drawings of the room.

Again, no height concerns were mentioned.

“On 21 May 2018, representatives from Komori came to the Print Facility to take
measurements for the installation of the machine. The evidence available to me is that the issue of head-height was discussed between the Oireachtas and Komori and those present were satisfied that sufficient height was available particularly since 90% of the operational tasks could be undertaken from the lower platform. The contract was formally signed on 31 May 2018,” said Finnegan.

It wasn’t until August when issues were identified, after the OPW Architect stated that having carried out a review of the specifications an issue regarding the head room had been identified, and another room to house the printer was found. 

In terms of when the printer will be up and running, the report states that the Health and Safety certification of the Komori press, ancillary equipment and an overall workflow assessment of the print facility is in progress.

It is hoped that these will be finalised by the end of next week.

The next phase will be to commence the planned training of printer staff on the new Komori printing press with the suppliers engineers who will be on site for the duration of the training.

It is anticipated that the comprehensive training will take 2-3 weeks. After the training is completed, the supplier will be in a position to finalise the commissioning process for the new machine. It is only then the printing machine will be ready for production.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane previously raised concerns with Finnegan about why he did not mention such cost overruns when he appeared before the PAC in July in relation to the accounts of the Oireachtas.

In his letter to the PAC, he states:

“Had I been asked about this issue on 11 July 2019, I would only have been in a position to give the Committee an estimate of the cost of the works and a very high-level description of them. I would not have been able to provide any of the detail that is
now available.”

He adds that as the structural modifications to the print facility along with the legacy works were subsumed into the OPW programme of works for 2019, they will only be accounted for in the 2020 appropriation account.

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