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Oireachtas printer: Requirements 'neither understood nor examined' at critical stages, report finds

The printer – which is yet to be operational – has caused controversy after it emerged it cost just over €800,000.

The printer cost over €808,000.
The printer cost over €808,000.
Image: Komori

Updated Nov 28th 2019, 9:15 AM

A REPORT INTO the controversial and costly printing press ordered by the Oireachtas has found that “significant structural adaptations” would have been required to the building “in any event” given the requirements laid out in the original tender documents.

Furthermore, the report from Dáil clerk Peter Finnegan has also 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”.

The total cost of the tender, which included the printing press, came to €1,369,605 inclusive of VAT. 

Initial reports stated that installation works, as well as other costs set relating to the project, put the costs at €1,793,605. 

However, the total cost is now believed to €1.629 million, according to Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Seán Fleming.

It comes as a delegation of politicians from the Dáil financial watchdog are due to pay a visit to the new printer in the Oireachtas which was found to be too big to install in the building. 

The printer – which is yet to carry out any printing work – has caused controversy after it emerged it cost just over €800,000 but was too big to be installed at Kildare House, close to Leinster House, when it arrived in September 2018.

Structural works costing €236,000 were needed on the building in order for the printing press to fit into a room.

In the meantime, the printer went into storage at Ballymount Industrial Estate in south Dublin where it remained at a cost of €2,000 per month before being installed in September this year. Issues remain, however, as staff say they need to be trained before they can use it. 

The clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan opened an investigation into the incident earlier this week after members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) voiced concerns. 

Writing to the PAC this morning, Finnegan explained that the Oireachtas print facility has covered everything from runs of business cards to large scale print runs of 70,000.

He said members were entitled to use the facility solely for matters related to their parliamentary duties, including newsletters, bulletins, fliers, circulars and personalised headed paper.

Outlining the tender process, Finnegan said that Komori – who were awarded the tender – wrote that there was limited head room. 

“However, at the time of writing this report, I have yet to establish how or if this information was processed within the Houses of the Oireachtas Service,” he said. 

He acknowledged that despite the structural works now being completed, the printer has not yet been used.

“Training has yet to take place as the Houses of the Oireachtas Service and Siptu are in discussion to address concerns raised by the print facility staff,” Finnegan said.

The total cost of the tender – including the printing press and other items – was €1,369,605 (incl VAT), plus the €229,000 (exclusive of VAT) for the structural works.

In his conclusions, the clerk of the Dáil says he’s satisfied the purchase of the Komori printing press that was purchased is “necessary and appropriate” to meet the current and future printing needs in the Oireachtas. 

Highlighting, however, how there the building requirements and regulations were neither understood nor examined he said a project of this scale requires specialist expertise on the project team. This must be considered for all future projects, he said.

Finnegan added that given the printing requirements set out in the original tender documents, “significant structural adaptations would have been necessary in any event”. 

He also said that there was “absolutely no lack of disclosure or candour” on his part in divulging information to the PAC. He also denied there was any attempt to “withhold any information”.

PAC

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Sean Fleming said the PAC is on a “fact-finding” mission to find out more details about the printer and the incident in full.

The issue is due to be discussed at the PAC this morning. In order to know what they are dealing with, a number of committee members are to pay a visit to the machine ahead of the meeting. 

TheJournal.ie understands that a business case for the purchase of the printer was submitted in 2017, which outlined that two old printers in the Oireachtas were in need of replacing. 

Maintenance costs of the two printers is currently €150,000 each per year, so the case for the purchase of an €800k printer, set to last over ten years, was put forward. 

The printer, when up and running, will be used by Oireachtas members only. It will be used to churn out Christmas cards, calendars for constituents,  letter-headed stationary for politicians and leaflets. 

Issues relating to the procurement of the works to the building, as well of the procurement by the Oireachtas for the machine, is something Fleming states they will question today. 

Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell has said she wants to ensure there was no attempt to conceal the costs of the printer, and the works associated with it, from the committee in previous hearings. 

“I think most people know that if you buy a table or a chair or sofa, they have to check the size of the window or the door of their house before they buy it. I think that’s the most basic for most people out there. So, if there was any attempt to conceal the building cost in an ICT head, I think that’s where the focus of our committee will be,” she said. 

Fleming has said he has an open mind on the issue, stating that he wants to see the printer before the committee meeting this morning.

“We’re still at the fact finding mission stage, not at the jump to the conclusion phase,” he said. 

With reporting from Seán Murray

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