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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 3 Dec 1997

Vol. 484 No. 1

Priority Questions. - National Conference Centre.

Jack Wall


17 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation whether he has satisfied himself that the competition to choose a national conference centre complies with EU guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21685/97]

As the Deputy will be aware, the new tender procedure for a national conference centre is being organised by Bord Fáilte under the aegis of the independent Management Board for Product Development. The tender procedure was determined after consultation with the relevant directorates in the European Commission and is being conducted in full compliance with EU Council Directive 93/37/EEC concerning the co-ordination of procedures for the award of public works contract.

The full tender procedure notice was published in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 13 September 1997. The notice was also published in the daily newspapers on 16 September. It invited applicants to submit requests to participate in the tender procedure by 5 p.m. on Monday, 20 October. Bord Fáilte received 12 responses within the deadline set for the receipt of applications. On 31 October invitation to tender documentation was dispatched by Bord Fáilte to seven qualified applicants, six of whom confirmed their intention to submit full tenders before the deadline set, 14 November. These six applicants who will be responsible for providing a site for the proposed development have three months to submit their tenders, that is, by the end of January next following which the tenders will be assessed. The management board has estimated that it will be late March before it has completed its deliberations.

Under the terms of the Operational Programme for Tourism the agreement of the Government and the European Commission, on foot of a cost-benefit analysis conducted in accordance with Union law, will be required in respect of the final selection made.

It was reported in the newspapers that the EU rules had been broken in this matter. Bord Fáilte stated in reply that invitation to tender documentation was issued on 31 October and that tenderers could seek clarification on the matters covered. Will the Minister agree that on that occasion Bord Fáilte should have sought to allay the fears of the general public by stating that there were no errors in the documentation issued to applicants thereby ensuring that the dates set for the completion and submission of tenders for this important project will be adhered to?

I assure everybody concerned that the regulations are not causing problems. I agree with the Deputy and my predecessor that this is a matter of national importance and hope that we have learned from mistakes made in the past. I ask those who have encountered problems to come to the Department or Bord Fáilte. A certain group has written to Bord Fáilte indicating that some of the regulations were not in order but the Commission has not found any case with which to reproach us. As Deputy Wall correctly said, the invitation to tender document of 30 October provided a mechanism by which tenderers could seek clarification of any matter covered by it.

In the national interest, I request all those interested to stop putting obstacles in the way of this project. I agree with Deputy Wall that nobody should attempt to sabotage this project which is of major incentive and importance to this country. Let us go ahead with it and, if any problems are encountered, let them be brought to my attention when I shall endeavour to have them overcome.

I reiterate that the tender procedure was determined after consultation with DG 15 and DG 16, conducted in accordance with EU Council Directive 93/37/EEC concerning the co-ordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts. We have gone to extremes here to ensure that everything is in order and that the relevant European Union Commissioner backs us on the matter. This country needs a national convention centre and there has been a huge surge in tourists coming here in recent years. I want to see the continuance of the huge strides made under successive administrations and the provision of a national convention centre is one of the best means of sustaining that momentum in tourism development.

Will the Minister state whether that group was the only one that raised questions in regard to the tendering process and, if so, inform the House of the number? Furthermore, will he state whether their fears have been allayed by his Department and the European Union?

To date one group only has written to Bord Fáilte seeking clarification of the regulations; another five in the course of the process have encountered no such problems. My Department is examining those specific inquiries printed in the newspapers which, unfortunately, have been brought into the public domain. In the national interests I ask people to allow this national convention centre to go ahead which is what I think is the desire of all parties and successive Governments.