Renewed work on five schools ‘open to legal challenge’

The continuation of work on five schools, which was stalled due to the collapse of British construction giant Carillion could be open to legal challenge, a TD has claimed.

Workers have been back on site since Monday at the two schools being built in Bray, and at the Wexford site since yesterday, with all three schools scheduled for completion by the end of August. 

They are among five sites where work stopped after the collapse of Carillion in January. 

Carillion’s subsidiary companies were part of the consortium building the schools and a college, in a public-private partnership (PPP) with the Department of Education.

However, Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said at a hearing of the Oireachtas Finance Committee with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) that building-control laws require that sub-contractors must certify their work in order for insurance and legal protection to cover any future faults or accidents in the schools.

The hearing was told that the new main contractor, Woodvale, had reached out to some sub-contractors involved in work before the liquidation, last month, of companies in the Sammon group, which had been the PPP company’s main contractor. 

While those sub-contractors would now get paid for their work, others have heard nothing and face closure or job losses because of money owed on the projects.

“The last thing we want to see is some kind of legal case from some sub-contractor or third party, that would prevent these schools from opening,” said Mr Doherty.

Pearse Doherty

He said that, through no fault of their own, many companies were left high and dry, unlikely to see the benefit of work and goods worth tens of thousands of euro, while the State would benefit when the schools open.

Gerard Cahillane, deputy director of the NDFA, which manages the PPP project on behalf of the department, said the possibility of challenges, under building control law, was not a prospect he was aware of. 

But he will come back to the committee, after getting legal opinion.

He also insisted it was not possible to require re-engagement of sub-contractors who were already used, as that was something between the PPP company and its main contractor. 

NDFA official Paul O’Neill said they had, however, encouraged Woodvale to engage with suppliers and sub-contractors who were already working on the projects.

Committee chairman John McGuinness rejected Mr Cahillane’s assertion that there was no cost to the State, because of the Carillion collapse and the subsequent reprocurement undertaken by DIF, Carillion’s partners in the consortium.

“Small companies will go bust, their employees will be out of a job and will sign on for jobseekers’, or whatever. 

And it’s a cost to the community, because those jobs are gone,” said Mr McGuinness.

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