Written Answers. - Schools Building Projects.

Martin Ferris

Question:

55 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount the State will pay a company (details supplied) over its 25 year contract to maintain five schools and operate the buildings, computer equipment, sports equipment and equipment for practical subjects; and his views on whether the use of public private partnerships is just a glorified form of hire purchase which will end up, over the whole 25 years, costing the State substantially more than if it had constructed the schools itself. [21872/02]

Following an EU wide tender process, Jarvis Projects Limited was selected to design, build, finance and operate five new post-primary schools to cater for 3,500 students approximately.

The contract for the construction of a bundle of five post-primary schools under the first education public private partnership project was signed with Jarvis in November 2001. The net present value of the project is €98.33 million. This figure compares favourably with the public sector comparator NVP of €103.99 million.

Under the terms of the agreement the repair, maintenance and services for the schools devolves to the operator for the period of the contract, 25 years. The operator must maintain each school to the highest level throughout the concession period with all classrooms, laboratories, heating, lighting and all services available everyday. By requiring the inclusion of quality assurance procedures for both the construction of the schools and the 25 year service contract, and by ensuring that key structural elements have a minimum design life of 40 years, my Department is procuring an asset that will have a fitness for purpose at the end and beyond the concession period. In essence, therefore, the PPP project is a service agreement, with built in financial sanctions for any possible lapses in service, between my Department and the operator.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

56 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals he has to meet the commitment given in An Agreed Programme for Government to ensure that every school attains set modern standards; the proposed set standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21745/02]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

66 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which he proposes to accelerate the schools building programme at both primary and second level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21865/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 66 together.

The Government remains committed to continuing the work that it has started and to consolidate the substantial progress that has already been made in order to ensure that the needs of schools throughout the country are met over time. The process of investment in educational infrastructure begun by the previous Government will be continued as outlined in An Agreed Programme for Government. To meet our objectives I will be looking closely at the potential for using PPP mechanisms and the concept advanced in An Agreed Programme for Government of a multi-annual programme schools' modernisation fund to be financed through the National Development Finance Agency.

In order to ensure the long-term planning of capital provision through a precise and detailed identification of accommodation needs in schools, my Department has undertaken on a pilot basis a comprehensive inventory of accommodation of 115 primary and post-primary schools in County Kildare. The information gained from the survey will be placed on a geographic information system database. My Department is currently undertaking a detailed assessment of the pilot phase of the inventory to determine the exact nature and extent of the nationwide survey.

The proposed standards will be largely based on the planning guidelines for primary and post-primary schools currently used by my Department.