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Saturday 7 December 2019

Dail printer fiasco costs €1.8m - but no one will take rap

Dail clerk Peter Finnegan
Dail clerk Peter Finnegan

The costs for a printing machine that was too big to fit in Dail offices, along with building works linked to its installation, have hit €1.8m.

It is still unclear, however, if anyone will face sanctions for the blunder.

There was severe criticism of the issue at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after it received a report on the purchase from Clerk of the Dail Peter Finnegan.

The report outlined nearly €1.8m in costs, but did not say who was responsible, nor did it get to the bottom of exactly how the mistake was made.

Fianna Fail TD Marc Mac- Sharry said the purchase had been a "total pig's ear" and claimed "no tangible sanctions" were being implemented in the public sector for "blatant incompetence".

Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane branded the purchase "a mess from start to finish".

Serious questions have been raised about the €808,000 printer after it emerged that structural work was needed to accommodate it, at significant extra cost.

Mr Finnegan's report says the total cost of printing equipment including the printer itself, folding machines, guillotines and other items, came to €1,369,605.

Work needed so the printer can fit in its assigned space is projected to cost around €229,000.

Tender

The Office of Public Works (OPW) also took the opportunity to carry out other "necessary works" on the building while the contractor was on site, at an estimated cost of €195,000.

The report details how the original tender documents said the machine must be able to fit in a room that was 2.5 metres high, and the company that ultimately won the contract raised questions about the height in communications with the Oireachtas.

Mr Finnegan's report says: "I have yet to establish how or if this information was processed within the Houses of the Oireachtas Service."

Mr Finnegan said he is satisfied the machine that was bought is "necessary and appropriate to meet the current and future needs" of the Oireachtas printing service.

He suggested that such a project needs specialist expertise at all stages and this must be a consideration in all future projects.

The PAC wants further information from the Oireachtas and the OPW by December 10.

The printer is not yet in use due to concerns raised by staff said to be seeking training. PAC member Mr Cullinane claimed there had been no consultation with staff before the purchase.

Asked if anyone will face sanctions over the issue, an Oireachtas spokesperson said she was "limited in what I can reply with, given that PAC said they were going to seek further information".

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