Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (70, 71, 72, 73)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

165 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the provision of a national conference centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25547/04]

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Mary Upton

Question:

180 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of groups or companies which have expressed interest in the construction of the proposed national conference centre; when the contract is likely to be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25431/04]

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Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

182 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of submissions received in response to the Office of Public Works advertisement for expressions of interest to provide a national conference centre in Dublin; the number of candidates that were short-listed; the location of the site in each case; the likely date on which a decision will be made on the successful candidate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25368/04]

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Willie Penrose

Question:

186 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress being made in relation to the provision of a national conference centre; the likely location of the centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25423/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165, 180, 182 and 186 together.

On 7 July last I announced that three of the four candidates who submitted expressions of interest in the provision of a national conference centre in the Dublin area had been short-listed to proceed to the next stage of the competition. As required, each short-listed consortium proposed an acceptable site in the Dublin area.

As I informed the House in reply to an earlier question today, the Government decision to proceed with the provision of a national conference centre also provided that its provision should be pursued under a public private partnership arrangement. This is a necessarily complex procedure and one that is required to be undertaken in accordance with the Department of Finance's interim guidelines for the provision of infrastructure and capital investments through public private partnerships.

As part of the procedural requirements of the PPP process, a public sector benchmark exercise and a benefit assessment must be undertaken before the next detailed proposals stage can be initiated. These exercises are being carried out and are close to finalisation. In addition, every effort is being made by the Office of Public Works and its advisers to complete as soon as possible the detailed project contract documentation required. As I explained to the House on 1 July last, the preparation of this documentation is demanding and time-consuming, with details requiring careful scrutiny and consideration.

At that time, I also expressed the hope that the procurement process would be sufficiently advanced to facilitate a Government decision before the end of the year. This has not proved possible and the firm objective now is to ensure that invitations to tender are issued to the three pre-qualified candidates before Christmas.

On the assumption that tender invitations will be ready for issue in December, and allowing several months for engagement with the selected tenders, current indications are that a preferred bidder could be selected by late summer 2005. While, I am reluctant to be categorical, given the complexity of the process, my personal priority and that of the Government, is to have this project brought to a conclusion at the earliest possible date while ensuring that the relevant procedures and guidelines pertaining to the process are closely observed and that nothing is done that might jeopardise its successful conclusion.

Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 151.