Controversial Dáil printer project cost €1.8m, report finds

‘This has been a total pig’s ear’: Members of PAC label situation as ‘absolute mess’

Staff are understood to be seeking additional payment to be trained and use the new printer. Photograph: RTÉ News

Staff are understood to be seeking additional payment to be trained and use the new printer. Photograph: RTÉ News

 

The cost of a controversial new Dáil printer, plus its installation and other associated costs, came to a total of €1.8 million, according to a new report.

The report, compiled for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by the Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan and seen by The Irish Times, has been unable to ascertain why the Oireachtas authorities went ahead and ordered a printer that was too high for the printing room.

The report found the company which supplied the printer had recommended a ceiling height in excess of that available in the room in its tender documents.

“However, at the time of writing this report I have yet to establish how or if this information was processed within the Houses of the Oireachtas Service,” the report states.

The report strongly denies that information about the cost of the printer was withheld from TDs.

However, the report also details additional costs associated with the installation of the new printer.

It says there were five components, or “lots”, in the original tender with a total price of €1.37 million.

Lot 1: Plate Making Device Contract signed with Graphic & Paper Merchants Ireland on June 11th 2018: €105,000 (excluding Vat)

Lot 2: Printing Press Contract signed with Komori UK Limited on May 31st 2018: €808,000 (excluding Vat) (€848,000 less trade in price of €40,000)

Lot 3: Folding Machines Contract signed with Portman Graphic Ltd on May 31st 2018: €100,000 (excluding Vat) (€107,000 less trade-in price of €7,000)

Lot 4: Guillotines Contract signed with Portman Graphic Ltd on May 31st 2018: €63,500 (excluding Vat) (€72,000 less trade in price of €8,500).

Lot 5: Pile Turner Contract signed with Portman Graphic Ltd on May 21st 2018 - €37,000 (excluding Vat)

Separately, the installation works cost €229,000 excluding Vat.

And the Office of Public Works “took the opportunity” to carry out further upgrades on the building which will cost an additional €195,000, though it stresses that these works were not required to deal with the height issue.

This amounts to a total outlay associated with the printer of almost €1.8 million.

While the printer has been installed, it has not yet begun to function. Staff are understood to be seeking additional payment to be trained and use the new machine.

“Training has yet to take place as the Houses of the Oireachtas Service and Siptu are in discussion to address concerns raised by the print facility staff,” the report finds.

Controversy

Meanwhile, members of the PAC have called for Mr Finnegan to appear before the committee to answer further questions about the controversy.

Members of the PAC hit out at the costs of the new printer labelling the situation as an “absolute mess”.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said the cost of the printer was “significantly more than it should have been, it seems, because mistakes were made”.

He said that a forklift would be needed to operate the new machinery.

“I spoke to some of the staff and there are no HR issues in relation to the operation of this printer, there are training issues. It’s a printer that’s twice the size of any printer the staff have ever used before. They actually need to use a forklift in a very tight space to load up the paper.”

He said: “We should have been made aware of the challenges that were in play here in relation to the additional costs, and we were not.”

Mr Cullinane said the controversy was a mess “from start to finish”.

He said he would have expected Mr Finnegan to inform the PAC about the issue during previous appearances.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry said “what we have done here is used the Children’s Hospital approach to public procurement: let’s buy it and stuff it in”.

He said: “This has been a total pig’s ear.”

Mr McSharry said that in general, there are no “tangible sanctions” when mistakes are made.

“There is nothing complex about this at all. It is basic cop on, no university degree required. No master’s, no PhD, just simple cop on. So the seven-page report, as far as I’m concerned, you may as well throw it into the nearest shredder.”

Fine Gael TD Peter Burke said because of the figures involved, there is a need to “get to the bottom” of how the situation developed.

Speaking in Dublin on Thursday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission.

“I do want to be abundantly clear on this, I think sometimes people often lump everything in the public service all together as if it’s all controlled by the Government, that’s not the case,” he said.

“This is a matter for the Oireachtas, the Government doesn’t control the Oireachtas.

“It’s really going to be matter for the Ceann Comhairle, and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission to resolve this, not the Government. This isn’t isn’t our business, actually.”

Mr Varadkar stressed that the costs associated with the printer are public funds which are not controlled by Government. “This is not a Government department,” he added. “This is not a State agency. “These are Houses of the Oireachtas, they’re controlled separate from government.

“It is up to the Ceann Comhairle and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission to account for that, and the opposition parties make up a majority of that commission.”