Calls for change to public procurement procedures after flood

Procedures need to be made more robust and less exposed to legal challenge says Bandon Flood Group

Flooding in Bandon as a result of Storm Desmond. Photograph: Denis Boyl

Flooding in Bandon as a result of Storm Desmond. Photograph: Denis Boyl

 

Public procurement procedures for major infrastructural works such as flood relief schemes need to be made more robust and less exposed to legal challenge, according to a spokesperson for a group in Bandon who have been campaigning for six years for a scheme for the town.

Gillian Powell of the Bandon Flood Group said that the provision of the €10 million Bandon Flood Relief Scheme had been delayed for up to two years because of the threat of a legal challenge from a contractor who didn’t make the OPW shortlist to do the work when tenders were received.

“The whole public procurement policy in this country is just skewed – it needs to be revisited and it needs to be made more robust because it’s very open to legal challenges which in our case has cost us the bones of a two year delay,” she said.

Ms Powell, whose home and Montessori school on Watergate Street were flooded both in 2009 and again at the weekend, said it was unacceptable that the OPW would allow six years to elapse since the last major flood in Bandon without any progress being made on the town’s flood relief scheme.

“The delays have been spurious, they are unacceptable – an expert body like the OPW should not be delaying things for six years,” said Ms Powell who re-opened her Montessori school on Monday morning by transferring it temporarily to the Bandon Scout Hall.

Ms Powell was one of up to 1,500 people who marched through Bandon on Monday last night calling on Minister of State, Simon Harris to deliver the flood relief scheme for the town as quickly as possible to avoid a repeat of the weekend devastation.

According to Ms Powell, the Bandon Flood Group acknowledge that tender documents for the scheme are due back in January and they have been given a start date of May 1st 2016 for the work but they remained concerned that the scheme may yet be further delayed.

“We have been given a new start date of May 1st next year but we don’t have much reason to be confident about that and we are very concerned that the new Environmental Impact Study once the tenders are approved will delay it further.

“Unfortunately, a different independent consultant is reviewing the EIS and the EIS issue delayed a flood relief scheme in Claregalway in Co Galway by a year and it’s held back the flood relief scheme in Skibbereen by a year and we’re afraid it will hold the Bandon one back as well,” she said.

Ms Powell said the Bandon Flood Group were firmly of the view that dredging work on the river bed of the Bandon as it flows through the town even at this late stage would help reduce the risk of flooding and she called on the OPW to sanction it immediately.

“Even if the scheme starts on May 1st, that’s a long long way away and we believe that dredging the river would work even if it only started today – we don’t really see a reason for the delay in getting into the river and doing something,” she said.

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney visited Bandon on Monday afternoon to see for himself the damage caused by Storm Desmond when up to 50 businesses mainly on South Main Street , Oliver Plunkett Street, Bridge Lane and Bridge Street were flooded on Saturday and Sunday.

Among those whom he visited was Deasys’s Pharmacy on South Main Street where some premises were flooded to a depth of two feet. Jo Deasy acknowledged Mr Coveney’s sympathy but said she and the other business people needed “actions not words”.

“I appreciate his concern and he can hardly be held personally to blame but having said that words are cheap, I want action, I want the flood relief put in place - I don’t want promises like we were given six years ago - I don’t want to be here again.

“Minister Coveney was talking about legal problems - yes, I appreciate (there are) legal problems but that’s no good to me when I’m under two feet of water - I cannot survive, I won’ t survive if it happens again,” Ms Deasy told Cork’s 96FM.