€830k spent on Cork events centre without a brick laid

Consultants and lawyers have been paid almost €700,000 for work on the Cork events centre project.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show the taxpayer spend on the stalled project has risen to over €830,000, even before a brick is laid.

The figures show for the first time the breakdown of the spend, to date, of the €1m which was allocated by central government to Cork City Council for the project.

BAM won the competitive tender for the initial €20m state-aid package in 2014, designed to secure delivery of a state-of-the-art events and conference centre in the city.

The €1m was allocated to the council in two tranches in December 2015 “in anticipation of contractual arrangements being entered into with the preferred bidder”.

The project has since become bogged down in redesigns, increased costs, and additional funding requests.

In May, it emerged that €633,000 of the €1m allocation had been spent on what the council described as “costs in relation to economic advice for the project and professional fees for carrying out the public procurement processes”.

Following an FoI request submitted in May by Labour activist Peter Horgan, it can now be revealed the spend has risen to €831,321.

The newly released figures show:

  • €491,832 has been paid to management consultants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, for the contract to lead the tender process, including assessments of construction costs and operational forecasts by international experts;
  • €187,741 has been paid between JW O’Donovan Solicitors and Ronan Daly Jermyn for legal fees linked to the running of the public tender process, and the drafting and advising on contractual arrangements;
  • €100,000 has been paid to BAM for “design works undertaken”;
  • €22,017 has been paid to economic and financial analyst James Dorgan for “cost benefit analysis” related work;
  • €20,000 has been paid to senior counsel Maurice G Collins for “legal advice”;
  • €8,624 has been paid to PIMAC Ltd for a “chairperson” role for “tender evaluation”, and €738 to Mills Public Relations.

“I have nothing against consultants — they do have a role to play, but almost €500,000 on consultants for this process seems excessive,” said Mr Horgan.

“And there is no adequate explanation of the figures. Everyone wants this project to work, for this to happen.

“But the secrecy and vagueness around this process is contributing to the sense of hopelessness that this project will not get off the ground.”

Last weekend, Tánaiste Simon Coveney asked for patience while the requests for additional funding are considered and finalised.

A renewed planning application has yet to be lodged and timelines outlined in February are unlikely to be met.

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