'Series of mistakes' made in €1.8m Dáil printer controversy, says top official

The Dáil's top official has said “a series of mistakes” were made in the €1.8m Oireachtas printing controversy, but said those mistakes were “human error”.

'Series of mistakes' made in €1.8m Dáil printer controversy, says top official

The Dáil's top official has said “a series of mistakes” were made in the €1.8m Oireachtas printing controversy, but said those mistakes were “human error”.

Clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan has written to the Public Accounts Committee that the cost of its new printer is now running at €1.8m, up €200,000 on the stated figure a fortnight ago.

According to documents sent by Mr Finnegan, to the PAC, construction costs associated with raising the ceiling have seen the figures inflated.

The report has been obtained by the Irish Examiner.

Mr Finnegan has conceded that “there is absolutely no denying that a series of mistakes were made during the project.”

“However, I am satisfied that the mistakes arose from human error, they were honest mistakes and made by staff who were seeking to improve the printing services for members,” he wrote.

The matter, is to be discussed by the PAC when it meets on Thursday morning, has been engulfed in controversy since it first emerged earlier this month.

Mr Finnegan and the OPW have been put on notice to appear before the committee in the afternoon, should the committee deem it necessary.

The PAC has been told that costs incurred by the construction work required to raise the ceiling of the room to accommodate the printing press are €267,000 excluding VAT, and not the €229,000 outlined in November.

This is because electrical costs are €126,000 and not the €94,000 previously outlined, while additional external civil and structural engineering fees of €11,408 have also been added.

When VAT is included, the total building costs associated with the printer reach €314,000.

Mr Finnegan, in his letter, has clarified that the cost of the basic printing press has not risen from its stated cost of €808,000.

The total cost of the machine is standing at €1.36m when ancilary equipment such as a pile turner and guillotines are taken into account along with VAT.

Mr Finnegan also clarified €195,000 of costs incurred by the Office of Public Works (OPW), which rise to €221,325 when VAT is included.

Mr Finnegan has sought to defend the spend of money on the Komori printer, purchased in 2019 to a Heidelberg Printer purchased in 2004 which cost €1.24m including VAT.

“It should be noted that the Komori printing press is €246,000 cheaper than the Heidelberg printing press purchased in 2004,” he told the PAC.

The documents confirm that Komori expressed a concern about the necessary ceiling height in the room designated to take the Oireachtas printing press was "missed by the evaluation team".

The note by the manufacturer Komori in April 2018 stated: "The head room for the press foot boards to the ceiling is limited."

Mr Finnegan concluded in his investigation: "I am advised that this note was missed by the [Oireachtas] evaluation team."

However, at a subsequent meeting in May, between representatives of Komori and Oireachtas staff, the concern over the size of the printing press appears to have disappeared.

Mr Finnegan states: "The evidence available to me is that the issue of head-height was discussed... and those present were satisfied that sufficient height was available, particularly since 90% of the operational tasks could be undertaken from the lower platform."

The contract was signed at the end of the month.

Mr Finnegan concludes that "important lessons to be learned from this project" and he adds that "these will be addressed as a matter of priority".

His document outlines eight key recommendations, including a provision that "all project teams must include specialist architectural expertise where a project could involve structural modifications" and "business cases must include an estimate of the cost of ancillary works and items".

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