€98,000 spent on error-ridden book

 

The National Library of Ireland spent €98,000 on a book which had to be withdrawn shortly after it was published in  2009 because of errors.

Ancillary costs of €33,000 were also incurred for the book, which was meant to highlight the library's "treasures".

A investigation carried out by the library found just one staff member had reviewed the tender for the contract to write the book, entitled National Library of Ireland, and that there was no documentary evidence of the evaluation.

Details of the publishing fiasco are included in the Comptroller and Auditor General's annual report, which was published today.

According to the report, the National Library awarded a one-year contract for a researcher for the proposed book in April 2008 having received the tender just one day earlier.

The review revealed there was no documentary evidence that the three other tender submissions received were formally evaluated for the contract.

The report says that the awarded contract "lacked clarity as to detail about the work to be performed, the time frame for completion and a limit on the expenditure involved." It says there was also a lack of clarity about how the work would be supervised. No project plan had been developed and no agreement reached about proof-reading of the final text.

Following the library's internal review, disciplinary action was taken against two staff members. It also undertook to introduce steps to strengthen procedures around tenders and to offer procurement training to employees.

The library now requires managers to prepare a business case for all projects over €25,000 in value which are to be reviewed by the management advisory committee. Projects exceeding €50,000 in costs are subject to board approval.

In a statement, the National Library of Ireland said it accepted the findings of the C&AG report and confirmed that management and the board have taken steps to introduce new protocols and procedures to prevent any future breach in procurement procedures.

It added that the problems highlighted in the report took place prior to the appointment of the current director and board last year.

Director Fiona Ross said that the library has recouped much of the costs associated with the project. "The work undertaken has provided valuable material to the library, which is still in use," she said.

Ms Ross said that some of the book's content is used in the Discover exhibition, which has been running since February 2010. She added that the remaining research content will be used in future activities.

This is not the first controversy involving  taxpayers' money and books contracted by State agencies.

A history of the Office of the Public Works, which is due to be published later this year, is estimated to have cost €350,000 more than originally envisaged.

The OPW agreed a two-year contract in 2002 with a professional historian to write the history of the organisation at a total cost of €76,184. However, the project has been continually extended and the final cost is now expected to be in the region of €420,000.