Works of at least €230,000 required to fit printer in Oireachtas

Fitting state-of-the-art €808,000 printer entailed tearing down walls, embedding steel

The printer has now been installed at Kildare House, but it is not currently in use due to an industrial relations stand-off between the Oireachtas and staff tasked with using the machine. Photograph: Alan Betson

The printer has now been installed at Kildare House, but it is not currently in use due to an industrial relations stand-off between the Oireachtas and staff tasked with using the machine. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

“Significant” and costly structural works had to be carried out to fit a €808,000 state-of-the-art printer into the Houses of the Oireachtas offices in Leinster House.

Internal emails show that Oireachtas officials miscalculated the measurements required for the Komori printer to fit into either of the two printing rooms in the building on Kildare Street.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the Oireachtas estimated the work required to accommodate the printer would cost €236,000. This included tearing down walls and embedding structural steel in order to give it the height clearance it needs to operate.

However, building sources have said the final bill for building works would have amounted to substantially more.

The machine – which is 2.1m high by 1.9m wide – was delivered to Ireland on December 5th, 2018, by the UK manufacturer. But it was placed in storage in Ballymount Industrial Estate, with the company’s Dublin agent, Portman Graphics, because the relevant works had not been completed.

The storage costs amounted to €2,000 a month, after an initial gratis period of four months. The total cost amounted to €12,000 when the printer was finally installed on September 28th, 2019, according to the documents.

While the printer has been installed at Kildare House, it is not currently in use due to an industrial relations stand-off between the Oireachtas and staff tasked with using the machine, who argue they need to be remunerated for work that requires up-skilling.

It is also understood IT staff in the Oireachtas are reluctant to allow the printer to be granted requested server permissions in order for it to run.

A briefing note from December 12th, 2018, to secretary general Peter Finnegan by the then head of communications Derek Dignam indicated that it was not possible to return the printer to the manufacturer after the error was discovered as the contract had already been signed.

“As the press has now been contracted for, the supplier is entitled to payment irrespective of difficulties now being experienced in respect of the required structural works,” Mr Dignam wrote. “To manage this unforeseen scenario we have agreed that the press will be stored in the agent’s premises until the work have been completed.”

‘Minor work’

The Oireachtas put out the tender in March 2018 for “a four-colour printing press, folding machines, guillotines and the installation and maintenance of same”, with an agreement being signed on May 31st.

An email from Siobhán Malone, facilities manager at the Houses of the Oireachtas, shows that initially the plan was to schedule “delivery in early September [2018]”.

She noted it would require minor work, such as “temporarily remov[ing] the metal door frame at the Kildare House ramp (external doors) and wooden internal doorframes (fire doors) to allow the machine to be installed”.

However, the first warnings that there was a major problem were first voiced on August 14th when Hilary Vandenberghe, a senior architect at the Office of Public Works – which was tasked with overseeing the delivery and installation of the printer – queried the measurements supplied to her.

“I note that the 3,160mm head height for operating the machine would not be achievable without significant structural works and mechanical works to the services floor overhead,” she wrote. “This would require a much more substantial project than we have under way on site – has there been any discussion on this with the suppliers at tender stage?”

Two days later Ms Vandenberghe told the Oireachtas officials that “it will not be possible to provide a compliant working area to make the new printer operational within this space”.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Seán Fleming, a Fianna Fáil TD, said the expenditure would be examined. “It’s not something that was raised with the committee when the Oireachtas were before us earlier this year, but it is definitely something that the PAC will want to look at,” he said.