My Department has completed two Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects under the Government's Pilot PPP programme. The contract for the first pilot education PPP project in Ireland, a bundle of five post-primary schools, was signed in November 2001. Construction of the schools was completed by January 2003. Four of the schools were completed ahead of schedule while the fifth was signed-off as scheduled. The PPP contract for the National Maritime College of Ireland was signed in March 2003. The college was completed on schedule in time for the 2005/06 academic year. Both of these projects were completed on budget.
The contract for the Cork School of Music was signed in September 2005, construction started immediately and will be completed on or before schedule in summer 2007. The project is within budget.
In September 2005 I announced a programme of four primary schools and twenty three post-primary schools to be constructed under the Departments PPP Programme 2005-2009. In November 2005 the first bundle of schools to be undertaken from the programme was announced. The bundle comprises Banagher College, Gallen Community School, Ferbane, Scoil Chriost Ri, Portlaoise and St Mary's CBS, Portlaoise. 2,700 pupil places will be provided when these schools are completed. The pre-qualification of bidders was completed in December 2006 and three short-listed bidders were selected on 22nd December. The Invitation to Negotiate was issued to the three short listed bidders on 15th March 2007 and it is intended that the bidding process will be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2007.
The second bundle of Primary/Post Primary schools consisting of Bantry Community College and Gaelscoil Bheanntrai, Co. Cork, Kildare Town Community School, Abbeyfeale Community College, Athboy Community School and Wicklow Town Community College was announced in September 2006. Work on this bundle including stakeholder consultation has already commenced and it is anticipated that it will be offered to the market in 2007. This bundle will provide just under 4,300 pupil places.
Further bundles of Primary/Post Primary schools will be announced during 2007 and it is envisaged that the third bundle will be offered to the market in late 2007 subject to site availability and outline planning permissions. Following on from the experience gained in the pilot projects a full life cycle analysis of the costs of providing schools through conventional means was undertaken by the Department in relation to the first bundle. This has provided the Department with a public sector benchmark which will be used to set an affordability cap for the project. The Public Sector Benchmark (PSB) is a key tool in the PPP procurement process. The PSB comprehensively address all costs, income and risks that the private sector will be invited to tender for in the PPP contract. The ultimate purpose of the PSB is to act as a reference throughout the PPP procurement process and it also plays an important role in the assessment of whether the highest ranking bid received has the potential to offer value for money.
It is important to recognise that the PPP contract covers a 25 year period and that by definition an all encompassing value for money test over the full life cycle of the buildings can ultimately be carried out only with the passage of time. The Comptroller and Auditor General recognised this in his report on the Pilot schools project when he stated that ‘ultimately, the full value for money represented by the grouped schools project will be determined over the 25-year life cycle of the project'. My Department is currently preparing for a five year review and evaluation of the pilot schools PPP project to commence in early 2008. This review will encompass an audit of the schools, a five yearly review and adjustment of the running costs and an evaluation of the project to date.