Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have been scathing in their criticism of the Oireachtas printing scandal which will now cost the tax-payer €1.8m.
It comes after a report into the purchase and installation of a new printer in Leinster House found that no consideration was given to how much space would be needed to accommodate the machine when it was being ordered.
It had been thought that the new printing machine, which was found to be too big for the room when it arrived, had cost just over €800,000. However a report provided to the PAC found the actual cost of the printing equipment, which came in five lots, was just over €1.3m.
Fianna Fail’s Marc MacSharry said cases like this happen because there is no sanction even in cases where there is blatant incompetence. He said that if this happened in a private company, people would be 'shown the door': "This is basic cop-on, people are entitled to 'look for a head'."
Mr MacSharry said: "What we have done here is used the Children’s Hospital approach to public procurement: 'let’s buy it and stuff it in'. This has been a total pig’s ear.”
Mr MacSharry said that in general, there are no “tangible sanctions” when mistakes are made: “There is nothing complex about this at all. It is basic cop-on, no university degree required. No master’s, no PhD, just simple cop-on. So the seven-page report, as far as I’m concerned, you may as well throw it into the nearest shredder.”
Clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan, ordered the investigation which found that “the requirements of the building and other regulations in relation to head height were neither understood nor examined during the critical early stages of the project”.
As a result, significant building and restructuring work had to be carried out before the printer could be placed in the room which cost another €229,000 exclusive of VAT.
The report also stated that the OPW took the opportunity to carry out “necessary additional works on the fabric of the building” while the contractor was on site. This amounted to a further €195,000 and included €30,000 on electrical works and €138,000 on air conditioning.
Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane directed his criticism at Mr Finnegan, who he said failed to spell out the full costs and troubles of this project when he appeared before the committee in the summer: “This was a mess from start to finish and we were not informed when the accounting officer was before us."
“It is clear mistakes were made but it is not clear from this report who made them,” he added.
Mr Cullinane said the cost of the printer was “significantly more than it should have been, it seems, because mistakes were made”.
He said: “We should have been made aware of the challenges that were in play here in relation to the additional costs, and we were not.”
Several committee members requested that Mr Finnegan be called back in before the PAC to discuss his seven-page report delivered to the PAC on Thursday morning.
Fine Gael’s Peter Burke centred his concerns on the role of the OPW, saying it has a “chequered history” in this area. He said the overrun in costs would build a fine four-bed house in Mullingar.
Fianna Fáil’s Bobby Aylward said he is very concerned about the revelations but said that nobody will be held to account: “This has gone wrong, someone has to take account, people are struggling and money is wasted like this. Someone needs to stand up and take the rap for it."
His colleague, Shane Cassells, called for a deeper analysis of the reasons as to how this overspend occurred. He also sought clarity on the workings of the Oireachtas contracts committee.
PAC chairman, Sean Fleming, read out the main details of Mr Finnegan’s report into the saga, first revealed by the Irish Times last weekend, and revealed the total cost of the project has come to €1.8m when OPW structural costs and VAT are included.
Asked about the controversy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it is a matter for the Oireachtas and not the Government.