Staff refuse to operate €808,000 Dáil printer without ‘safety assessments’

PAC to examine spending on device and €230,000 works to fit it into building

PAC chair  Seán Fleming  said the cost of the printer had been borne by two bodies, the Oireachtas and the OPW.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

PAC chair Seán Fleming said the cost of the printer had been borne by two bodies, the Oireachtas and the OPW. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Siptu has said that there are “ongoing health and safety assessments” which must be concluded before the controversial new Dáil printer can be operated by its members.

The union also said there were additional demands and skills required of its members to operate the printer. It is understood that the union is seeking additional payments.

In response to questions from The Irish Times, Siptu confirmed that it is in discussions with the Houses of the Oireachtas about the operation of the new printer.

The printer cost more than €800,000 but, due to incorrect measurements, could not be installed until structural alterations were made to get the machine into the building. The works cost in excess of €230,000, and were completed in recent months. But the printer has not been used because of the dispute with Siptu members.

Siptu sector organiser Jane Boushell said: “Our members are in discussions with management in relation to the additional demands and skills required for operating the new print equipment. There are also a number of ongoing health and safety risk assessments which are yet to be concluded in relation to the operation of the new equipment.”

Siptu did not comment further on the nature of the health and safety assessments required.

“While these discussions and assessments are ongoing, our members and their representatives will not be commenting any further on this issue,” she added.

Examination

On Tuesday, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) confirmed it has begun an examination of the expenditure.

The Dáil’s spending watchdog will discuss the matter on Thursday but will hold back on a full investigation until it has fully established the facts.

The Irish Times disclosed at the weekend that the high-tech industrial Komori printer had cost €808,000 without having yet begun operating. It had to be put into storage for nearly a year as it was too big to fit inside the building. Structural works, including demolishing a wall, were required to fit the printer into its room. The industrial relations stand-off continues.

The Oireachtas’s most senior official, the Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan, told the PAC he was conducting an urgent inquiry into the controversial purchase.

He said he would complete a written report on the issue by Thursday, and would also appear before the public spending watchdog to answer questions.

Seán Fleming, the Fianna Fáil TD who chairs the PAC, said the costs were borne by two different bodies: the Oireachtas; and the OPW, which would also be invited to make information on costs available to the committee.

Mr Fleming said that he did not know if the full facts had emerged, and the committee would have to talk to the OPW to establish how much it had spent in relation to the item.

Senior officials

Referring to the attendance of senior officials from Leinster House at a committee meeting earlier this year, he said they had referred to an underspend on staffing costs, with the additional funds being directed to ICT costs. However, no breakdown had been given.

“I would have appreciated if we got more information on the day,” he said.

He said there was “always a duty of candour” on departments and State agencies to disclose the full details of spending. “Maybe we did not ask the right questions,” he said.

He said the committee would go into private session on Thursday for a “walk-through” of the facts that have been established to date, as well as the timelines. He said it would then take a decision on how it would proceed.

In addition to the printer, almost €300,000 was spent on peripherals.

The printer cost €808,000. A plate-making machine cost over €100,000 as did a folding machine. In addition, the cost allotted for a guillotine (to cut paper) was €63,000 while a pile turner was to cost €37,000.

The total cost of structural work was €236,000 while storage for the printer in Ballymount cost a total of €12,000, as works were being completed.