Thursday, 17 October 2019

Questions (57)

Bríd Smith


57. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the situation of schools affected by an issue with a company (details supplied); if a full independent review will be conducted; if so, when such a review will take place; and the mechanisms his Department is using to procure the school building programme. [42576/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware that the Department commenced a programme of structural assessments in over 40 schools built by the company in late October last year.  At that time, a part of 1 school building was closed, immediate precautionary measures were put in place in 22 schools, with the remaining 17 schools not requiring immediate precautionary measures pending further detailed investigations.  Detailed investigations in the 22 schools with precautionary measures in place took place between January and May 2019.  The first phase of the School Remediation Programme for these schools took place during the 2019 summer holiday period with permanent remediation work carried out enabling the removal of precautionary measures in full in 14 schools and preparatory work well advanced to commence structural remediation work in the remaining 8 schools.

Planned detailed investigations in the remaining 17 schools also took place over the summer months. The engineering advice following those detailed investigations was that some temporary engineering solutions and other precautionary measures should be completed in some parts of some of these buildings until permanent remediation works were designed, programmed and delivered.  These works were completed in advance of these schools re-opening for the new school year.

The programme to complete the remediation of all the impacted schools is continuing, with the intention to maximise the summer holiday periods in 2020 and 2021 to carry out permanent works.

I wish to advise the Deputy that I recently announced that the independent review of current use and practices in the Design and Build Procurement/Construction Model for the delivery of school building internationally has been awarded to the School of Surveying and Construction Management, Technological University Dublin.  The scope and nature of the current review is designed to ensure that it does not prejudice the on-going legal process initiated by the Department against the company and others.

The report arising from this review will be finalised by the end of Quarter 4 this year. 

The independent review will be an important precursor in a planned wider independent review of the Department’s Design & Build Programme which will commence when the ongoing legal process has concluded. 

Design and Build has been one of a mix of procurement routes used by the Department of Education and Skills to deliver school places over the past 10 years. 

Other procurement methods employed by the Department include traditional procurement, i.e. the design work is contracted separately from the construction; Public Private Partnerships (PPPs); and devolved delivery, i.e. where a project is devolved to another entity, such as an Education and Training Board (ETB), the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), local authority or OPW, for delivery. It is considered that the use of a mix of procurement routes has been, and continues to be, essential to delivering school places at the pace required, taking account of capacity both in the construction industry and the public sector.