Planned new schools ‘will not be affected by PPP changes’

THE Department of Education has given assurances to school management bodies that the delivery of five planned new second-level buildings will not be affected by proposed changes to the ownership of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts.

As talks continue between schools’ contract holders Jarvis and German firm Hochtief, department officials emphasised that the terms of the deals will not be changed in any way.

Part of Jarvis’s business was taken over last year by Hochtief, clearing the way for work to get underway on the Cork School of Music project.

But the British company is now negotiating with Hochtief the sale of its contracts, under which it built five second-level schools in counties Clare, Cork, Monaghan and Sligo.

The deal arises from significant financial difficulties faced by Jarvis since last year, which added to delays on the €60 million School of Music work.

David Gordon, head of the Department of Education’s PPP unit, said no formal proposal for a change of contract partner had been received.

“We know that Hochtief are in the process of making a bid but Jarvis are doing the work in line with their contract with us,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter to us who runs the project but, if it changes, the new operators will have to seek our approval and provide the same service as Jarvis agreed,” Mr Gordon said.

The 25-year contract provides for deductions to be made from the private partner if they do not perform the duties agreed.

Jarvis built the state-of-the-art schools within the scheduled timeframe and is responsible for their maintenance and provision of non-educational services such as catering. The projects have been generally deemed a success.

Education Minister Mary Hanafin announced last year that 27 schools will be built under PPP contracts at a cost of €300m to the State up to 2009.

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