Forensic laboratory delayed indefinitely over lack of tenders
Minister says no developer wants to take on the €60m construction, as currently envisaged
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: “The position is that no tenders have yet been received for the construction of the new forensic science laboratory at the Backweston Campus.” Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A new €60 million State forensic science laboratory has been indefinitely delayed because no one has tendered for the project.
The setback is already damaging the criminal justice system as well as crime victims, it has been claimed.
The Office of Public Works invited expressions of interest last April for the construction of the laboratory to replace the existing facility, a converted office block where a chronic lack of space has long been blamed for a backlog in crime-solving.
Out of 13 contractors who expressed an interest, seven were deemed suitable and invited to tender for the project, originally due to be completed next year.
But despite a closing date for tenders being extended last year by a month, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has confirmed no developer wants to take on the construction, as currently envisaged.
“The position is that no tenders have yet been received for the construction of the new forensic science laboratory at the Backweston Campus,” he said.
About €1.3 million has already been spent on “enabling works” to prepare the site, near Celbridge, Co Kildare, for the new Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) headquarters.
Mr Flanagan said the most recent submission date for tenders, which lapsed without any interest, has now been deferred as “owing to the complexity of the project and recent changes in international forensic laboratory standards, it will be necessary to add further material to the tender documentation”.
The Minster does not expect the new laboratory to be ready before 2021.
The delay has been criticised by Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan who said vital forensic work was currently carried out “in an inappropriate converted office block at the back of Garda headquarters”.
Sheila Willis, a former director general of FSI who retired last year, has said the current laboratory was “out of step” with international best practice norms, and that the cramped working conditions were contributing to a backlog in cases.