€900k spent on Dublin Castle press centre to cover state visits

More than €900,000 was spent fitting out Dublin Castle to accommodate journalists covering the visits of President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth.

Four improvement projects covered electrical facilities, mechanical equipment and building work for those reporting on the short stays in 2011.

The work was approved by the OPW to upgrade the press centre which was established in the former tribunal buildings in advance of last year’s high profile visits.

None of the contracts went to tender. As a result they each broke the €25,000 threshold for publicly funded deals that must be put out to get competitive quotes.

However, in a report on the arrangements, the OPW told the Comptroller and Auditor General it did not have time to go through the correct channels.

“The brief of requirements were only known a short time before the visits. There was insufficient time available to obtain quotations for the work,” it said.

To electrical contracts cost €180,478 and €337,000 respectively. Another €235,000 was spent on mechanical work and €148,314 was the cost of the building work.

During the visit of the Queen, she gave her keynote speech from Dublin Castle.

The OPW has committed to spending a further €3m upgrading parts of Dublin Castle to host conferences linked to the presidency of the European Union in 2013.

The OPW said it did get value for money for its press centre contracts and overall it spent €2.4m facilitating the arrangements for the two heads of state.

The press centre contracts were among 14 awarded by the OPW in 2011 without going through proper tendering procedures. Together these were worth €2m.

Ironically the list included the €139,617 extension of the contract to run the e-tenders website which was established to facilitate open tendering by government agencies.

The contractor running the site was given an extension to an existing deal.

In its explanation to the Office of the C&AG, the OPW said a competition to find a new contractor was put in place when the contract expired.

Separately, €33,154 was charged to the OPW for an investigation into bullying and harassment.

This was not put to competition because it was felt the investigation was of a “sensitive and unique nature”. The OPW has said this investigation is completed but its outcome is private.

The highest value contract that was not tendered for in 2011 dealt with the repair of Chesterfield Avenue in the Phoenix Park. This saw €387,000 spent on an additional stretch of road not covered in an original contract.

The OPW said it had been asked to provide accommodation for 350 media journalists who covered the Queen’s visit but the demands grew with the arrival of President Obama.

“[The requirements] subsequently increased with the announcement of President Obama’s visit and OPW had to provide additional space with resulting costs. The total number of accredited media was approximately 1200.

“Other associated costs (eg risers, stage, transport, dining, security, etc) were borne by other departments and the OPW. The total amount expended by the OPW at Dublin Castle and elsewhere relating to the visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Obama was €2.4m,” it said.

Read the relevant document here


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