Thursday, 18 April 2013

Questions (40)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

40. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide details of all flood relief and large scale water drainage works carried out by the Office of Public Works in the past five years including the location of each scheme, the cost of each scheme and the numbers employed; his views on whether the use of OPW resources for such works represents a saving over the potential cost of contracting the work to the private sector; if he has considered advancing other public works projects under the auspices of the OPW that may provide employment to suitably qualified individuals who are long-term unemployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17842/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Question has been taken to refer to flood relief schemes carried out directly by the OPW's labourforce in the past five years.

The majority of OPW capital flood relief schemes are carried out through private sector contractors. However, in some circumstances it is considered more appropriate and efficient to undertake the works directly using OPW's own staff - permanent and temporary. In deciding which approach would be the most appropriate use of resources in any instance, the OPW has regard to a number of factors such as the scale and complexity of works involved, their geographic location relative to OPW's regional depots and the extent of other work commitments.

Using a direct labour approach to undertaking capital works offers advantages in some respects over using private contractors. It is generally a faster way to get the works commenced as the onerous and time consuming process of procuring a private contractor is avoided. It also allows more flexibility in managing risks on a project through targeted deployment of resources to deal with delays caused by unforeseen events and conditions which frequently arise in these type of works. It is the case that, in certain circumstances, using direct labour is a more cost effective way of undertaking works compared to engagement of a private contractor. However, each case must be looked at and decided on its own merits as there are a muliplicity of factors that must be taken into account in considering the most appropriate approach to use.

In terms of the employment generating potential of using a direct labour approach over a private contractor approach, it is considered that there is not a significant difference in either model as, in broad terms, both would employ the same number of staff. It has to be borne in mind that the OPW, like all Government Departments and Agencies, is required to manage it staff resources within the Employment Control Framework total allocated to it by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Therefore, the OPW is constrained in the scope it has to recruit additional staff to allow it to undertake any significant expansion in its direct works programme.

The number of staff involved in the construction of a scheme varies over the course of the project as the elements of the works being carried out changes. As indicated, the numbers employed would be broadly similar irrespective of whether the scheme is being carried out by contractors or through staff employed by OPW. Where OPW is carrying out a project directly, in addition to recruiting temporary staff on contract for that scheme, the Office generally also uses members of its permanent workforce. While the primary and core function of this workforce is the maintenance of completed arterial drainage and flood relief schemes, staff members are also deployed to the construction of capital schemes where appropriate. It is important to mention also that, even where a scheme is being carried out "in-house" or directly by the OPW, it is often the case that private contractors are employed to carry out discrete specialist elements of the works such as stone works, cladding or sheet piling.

Details of the main large flood relief schemes carried out in the relevant period are given below. Because OPW staff, including supervisory staff, are deployed between projects, the full overhead cost in relation to these staff would not be reflected in the cost figures shown for each scheme. In addition to these schemes, a number of smaller-scale projects were carried out, generally as agents of the relevant Local Authorities for schemes approved under the OPW's Minor Flood Mitigation Works scheme.

Scheme

Average number of staff*

(permanent and temporary)

Total cost

Mornington Flood Relief Scheme, Co. Meath

11

€4.2m

Dodder Flood Relief Scheme, Dublin

15

€10.9m

Johnstown, Co. Kildare

9

€3.0m

Tullamore, Co. Offaly

9

€1.0m

Claregalway

13

€1.0m

(*These numbers would not include staff employed by any contractor engaged for specialist elements of the project.)

The number of temporary staff recruited by the OPW in any given year is decided on the basis of the work programme for that year and the financial and supervisory resources available.

It should be noted also that since its introduction in 2009, the OPW Minor Works programme has to date funded around 400 flood mitigation projects throughout the country, through the Local Authorities with a total allocation of €28m.