MINISTER for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said there is nothing untoward in rising consultancy costs associated with the redevelopment of Limerick Prison.
She was responding to a series of parliamentary questions on procurement within the Irish Prison Service tabled by Sinn Fein’s Aengus O Snodaigh.
Deputy O Snodaigh asked the minister if she was aware of a complaint that the winning tender for the works in Limerick was “abnormally low”. She replied that an independent review had found the contract award to be “entirely appropriate”
The rising costs, Minister Fitzgerald said, related to changes in the scope of works required in Mulgrave Street since the tenders initially went out. And some of this related to extras for prisoners - including an astro-turf five-a-side soccer pitch; a handball alley and a new garden.
Minister Fitzgerald said that Rogerson Reddan & Associates had been awarded a €294,880 (exclusive of VAT) consultancy contract for the redevelopment at Limerick Prison in September 2012 , beating off bids from another four companies.
But she also confirmed to Deputy O Snodaigh that €401,249 (inclusive of VAT) had been paid to the consultants to date, with the projected final cost unknown.
She said she had been advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that “there has been a change in the scope from the original works envisaged when the consultants tender issued in 2012”.
“These additional works include, inter alia, a requirement to realign the boundary of the Irish Prison Service prison extension site to accommodate the then emerging design for the new Limerick Regional Courts Complex which is to be built on an immediately adjacent site to Limerick Prison; the decision to construct a new stand-alone secure female prison facility for the Munster region on the site which resulted in a requirement to relocate the car park and trades workshops and stores in order to facilitate the development of the new female prisoner accommodation unit. The revised scope also includes a plan to incorporate an enhanced outdoor recreation area and yards, including a new astroturf facility for five- a-side football, a green area for horticultural activities and a facility for handball.”
The Minister went on to state: “The extent of these works were not envisaged at the time of the original consultants tender in 2012. However, provision is made in the consultancy tender to facilitate a change in the scheme through the brief development stage. As part of the tender process, tenderers were required to provide specific rates in relation to the project which were applied to changes in scope.
“The estimated final payments for the Limerick development projects cannot be accurately estimated at this time as final approval for the project has not yet been granted. Work is continuing on finalising the design for the redevelopment of Limerick Prison.”
Deputy O Snodaigh had also raised “a complaint received at the time that the cost of the Limerick consultants tender was abnormally low; and if this has been proved correct”.
But Minister Fitzgerald expressed herself satisfied with the process.
A request for a review from an unsuccessful bidder had reached the Department of Justice, she said.
“An independent peer review was carried out by a senior official in my department. I can confirm that the independent review concluded that the award of the contract, as recommended by the IPS tender evaluation board, was entirely appropriate and that the issue was considered in a robust, timely and proportionate manner by the evaluation board,” she said.
The redevelopment of the prison in Limerick has fallen behind schedule with former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter having once identified December 2013 as the starting date for a four-year construction programme aimed at modernising some of the oldest accommodation in the prison estate.
The project is to include the construction of a new 100-cell wing to replace the current antiquated wings as well as a new women’s prison unit capable of accommodating 50 female prisoners
The Irish Prison Service has more recently put a starting date of late 2015 on a project that will see the end of slopping out in Limerick, a practice that has been serially criticised in the reports of the Inspector of Prisons.