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Old Oireachtas printers not eco-friendly, case for new controversial printer argued

The purchase of the printer is due to be discussed by the Public Accounts Committee later this week.

Image: Shutterstock/noel bennett

Updated Nov 26th 2019, 9:20 PM

THE BUSINESS CASE to buy a new printer in the Oireachtas that was later found to be too big to install said the old printers were not environmentally friendly and cost €150,000 each per year in maintenance. 

Last weekend, the Irish Times reported that a printer costing €808,000 was ordered for Kildare House in May 2018. It was too big to be installed when it arrived in September and structural works were required at a cost of €236,000 in order for it to be installed. 

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

It is understood that a business case to buy the new printer was made and approved in 2017. The printer is not expected to be in operation until next year.   

It was argued that two older printers in the Oireachtas were running at a maintenance cost of around €150,000 each, due to breakdowns and the materials needed to run the printers.

The printers were also not environmentally friendly it was said. In addition, the new printer was said to last for at least a decade. 

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

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 on Thursday.  

“The Clerk of the Dail is preparing a report on the printer and associated matters for PAC,” an Oireachtas spokesperson said. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, this morning, Sinn Féin TD and committee member David Cullinane described it as “extraordinary” and said PAC members wanted answers. 

“I learned about it in the Irish Times but interestingly we had Mr Finnegan before the Public Accounts Committee in July of this year. He is the accounting officer for the Houses of the Oireachtas and for the spend in the Houses,” he said. 

“He talked about the printer at that meeting and he said the cost was €1.3 million, no more than that. There was no details about why it was costing more. There was no details that the printer itself only costed €800,000.

“What he said was the printing unit was costing €1.3 million and what we now find out is substantial money had to be paid to refurbish part of the building to ensure the printer would fit because the measurements were wrong. It’s extraordinary that that happened. 

“It’s also extraordinary that the Public Accounts Committee at that meeting was not told by a very experienced and a very senior civil servant who, in my view, should have known better.”

Cullinane said the mistake was noticed in August 2018, three months after the printer was ordered. 

Asked if the cost of the printer itself was an unnecessary use of public funds, Cullinane said it would be used to service those working in Leinster House including TDs. 

“Big printers cost money, so that wasn’t in itself a problem. The problem here is that mistakes were made in relation to the original contract. The printer was too big for the building. That was only noticed late on and I think it’s unfortunate and regrettable that the accounting officer had known about this.

“It’s partly to do with Oireachtas members but it’s also to do with all the printing for Leinster House as far as I know.”

The Sinn Féin TD said he expected to see Finnegan before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday. 

With reporting by Christina Finn. 

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