We will write to the Accounting Officer directly on that basis and seek full information and clarification on that point. I am proposing to hold over category C - correspondence from private individuals to next week's meeting.
I will return to No. 2581 B from Mr. Peter Finnegan, Secretary General, Houses of the Oireachtas Service, which incorporates No. 2575 B and 2578 B. No. 2581 B is the report received this morning from Mr. Peter Finnegan, Clerk of the Dáil and Secretary General, Houses of the Oireachtas Service entitled, "Report on the purchase of the Komori printing press and related matters for the Committee of Public Accounts". This report was only received this morning so I will ask the secretariat to make arrangements so that within the hour of us concluding this matter, the report will be published on the committee website. Because members do not have access to it, I ask them to bear with me for a few moments so that people watching understand what is in the report before we start our discussion. They will understand our discussion better if we put the contents of the report on the record.
It is an eight-page report. Do not worry; I will not read it all. It outlines the print facility and the background. The print facility has operated since 2007 and is used extensively by Members and to a small extent by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service for some of its work. The average number of documents printed per year is 2,357. This is an average of ten per Member or thereabouts. The report states that the annual expenditure in recent years for the print facility for ongoing services has averaged between €550,000 and €600,000, plus staffing costs for 2018 of approximately €610,000. The report states the facility can only be used by Members with regard to their parliamentary duties. It cannot be used for any other matters and it has standards in place to ensure Members do not print anything unconnected with their parliamentary duties. The report also states the porters will deliver the finished print jobs to a Member's car or Members may pick them up directly from the print facility. I also wish to add that major print jobs such as newsletters are collected by arrangement with a Member, who will pay for a van to collect them directly from the print facility. Not everything will fit in the boot of a single car. Most of the large items are collected by couriers and transported to wherever a Member has requested. There is a print users' council comprising four Members - two Deputies and two Senators - and four members of staff. One print manager and eight print staff are employed and the print facility is located in the basement of Kildare House across the road from the Kildare Street entrance to Leinster House.
The project to upgrade the printing equipment began in 2017. It was approved by the management board and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. The report states that the original equipment, which was 12 years old, was fully depreciated and expensive to maintain. Provision was made in the 2018 Estimates of €1.5 million to cover the expected costs, which included decommissioning of the existing equipment. It was expected that the new printing press would cost approximately €850,000, excluding VAT. It was expected that there would be savings due to not having to service the existing machines, the machines having trade-in value, spare parts costing less and a movement to a greener production facility rather than the old machine, which was over 12 years of age. The report also stated that it would facilitate the printing of a new range of printed products for Members and staff, i.e., A5 booklets, which could not be printed on the original printer. I ask members to bear with me. I want them to understand the system.
The dates involving the procurement process were: 15 August 2017, when market soundings meetings took place on the Leinster House campus; 5 March 2018, when the request for tender was published on eTenders and in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJEU; 21 March 2018, when there was a site visit for interested parties; 29 March 2018, which was the deadline for receipt of clarifications of information; 5 April 2018, which was the closing date for receipt of tenders; 12 April 2018, which was the date for the evaluation of tenders received; 19 April 2018, which was the date of the post-closing clarification meeting; 27 April 2018, which was the date of consideration by the Oireachtas contracts committee; 27 April 2018, when contracts were awarded; 31 May 2018, when contracts were signed; and 18 June 2018, when the contract award notice was published on eTenders and in the OJEU.
It is stated that when they took the market soundings in 2017, three suppliers attended in Leinster House and subsequently, it was decided that to facilitate open access by SMEs that the tender would be split into five separate lots. I will spell out the different lots. The big one was lot 2, the Komori printer, which was the main item. On that, it is stated that as part of the visit, the company which visited asked about clearance and the response provided was that there was a false ceiling and there was another 35 cm, approximately 12 or 13 inches, of room.
On lot 2, the main printer, the head room from the Press, it was stated, was limited. They subsequently sent a number of documents, email dated 25 April, including a one-page drawing which showed the existing ceiling height of 2.5 m and the recommended ceiling height of 3.16 m. "However, at the time of writing this Report", Mr. Peter Finnegan states, "I have yet to establish how ... this information was processed within the Houses of the Oireachtas Service.". Therefore, the Komori company highlighted this issue and Mr. Finnegan is not yet clear how that was processed within the system at this stage.
The contract was signed on 31 May 2018. A drawing of the machine and a sketch of the proposed location was provided at that stage. On 30 May 2018, they contacted the Office of Public Works.
Mr. Finnegan goes on to state:
In an email dated the 15th August 2018, the OPW Architect stated that having carried out a review of the specifications an issue regarding the head room had been identified.
The initial consideration of the brief by architects and engineers concluded that the proposed location in Print Room 1 would not be advisable.
Then it was agreed to locate the printer, which they had intended to go into print room 1, in print room 2. The OPW had structural engineers involved and a survey was concluded in January 2019. The letter states, "Following the survey, it was confirmed that print room 2 was feasible for the loading required" but the OPW also took the opportunity to carry out additional works on the fabric of the building to include replacement of obsolete air conditioning.
The final plans for the layout of the room were signed off in June 2019 and a key aspect was to ensure that the existing printing facilities would continue in operation during the installation works. A work programme was agreed with the contractors and suppliers, the main works commenced in August 2019 and the print machine was delivered on 28 September 2019.
The printing equipment is now installed and commissioned. Training has yet to take place as the Houses of the Oireachtas Service and SIPTU are in discussion to address concerns raised by the print facility staff.
On the money aspect of this, as we mentioned already, the job was broken into five separate lots. The five separate lots came to a total of €1.369 million, including VAT. It was broken down as follows: The plate making device was €105,000 plus VAT; lot 2, the main printer, was €848,000 plus VAT less trade-in valued at €40,000 for the old equipment; the folding machines were €100,000, excluding VAT; the guillotines were €63,500; and the pile turner was €37,000. That adds up to €1.369 million, including VAT. Then the works carried out were €229,000 plus the construction rate of VAT, that is €260,000, giving a cost of €1.625 million to date on that work. The OPW carry out additional work on the ventilation at a cost, including VAT, of approximately €220,000 to date.
The Secretary General stated that this matter was referred to in the Appropriation Accounts 2018. He mentions that there was a prepayment of costs totalling €1.793 million, which is greater than the figure I mentioned but includes laptops which were purchased that have not yet been brought into commission. With the Comptroller and Auditor General, as part of the audit, it was agreed that these could not be included in fixed assets because they were not in operation. They had been paid for, they were sitting here but were not in operation and the Comptroller and Auditor General stated they cannot come into fixed assets. This prepayment of €1.793 million was mentioned in the accounts.
In the conclusions - I am at the last page now - Mr. Finnegan stated that there is a large number of documents printed every year and, of course, any national parliament should have its own printing facility. I do not think people disagree with that.
Mr. Finnegan goes on to state:
However, 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. A project of this scale and complexity requires specialist expertise (particularly architectural and engineering) on the project team at all stages and this must be a consideration in all future projects.
Mr. Finnegan is clear in what he is saying there. He states:
Given the printing requirements in the Houses of the Oireachtas as expressed in the Request for Tender Document, it is my opinion that significant structural adaptations would have been necessary in any event.
That is the conclusion of Mr. Finnegan's report.
I will take comments. Deputy Cullinane is first up and will be followed by Deputies MacSharry, Munster, Catherine Murphy and Connolly. That is the sequence. We will try to have a brief discussion. It goes without saying we have some of the information here today and we have not heard from the OPW, which carried out all the work, or its contractors and tenders. We have some of the information today but we want to hear from the OPW separately as well.
We will try to keep the debate brief. I am sorry for taking so much time to read the report but people have not seen this published, bar somebody leaking a copy of it this morning. I want people to understand the context of this discussion.