Sinn Féin deputy finance spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has initiated his Regulation of Tenderers Bill before the Dáil this afternoon. This Bill would regulate abnormally low tender bids and badly performing contractors and allow the State to disqualify or exclude them from public works contracts on those grounds.
Speaking this afternoon, the Cork North-Central TD said:
“This Bill I initiated today would ensure that some of the problems arising from the gross mismanagement of the National Children’s Hospital would not happen again. It provides specifically for two important regulations.
“Firstly, it would put in place a system of identifying abnormally low tenders and then disqualifying them from the selection process for a public contract if the contractor cannot provide a credible explanation of their bid and how they would achieve it.
“This is vital, as abnormally low tenders are warning signs of uninformed contractors low-balling bids with the likely consequence of cost escalation further down the line.
“Secondly, it would put in place a system of identifying and disqualifying contractors that have shown significant and persistent deficiencies in prior public contracts.
“Both regulations would have gone some way in protecting the taxpayer and the State from the debacle at the heart of the National Children’s Hospital, and would put in place a robust system to safeguard the public purse and deliver capital projects at cost.
“It is worth noting that this Bill simply enforces regulations that are already in 2016 EU Regulations on the awarding of public contracts.
“This government has abjectly failed to implement these regulations, with no evidence that any circulars or guidance notes have been issued by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform to departments or contracting authorities on their provisions.
“It is this type of policy apathy that has resulted in cost overruns across capital projects since 2011, and this type of apathy that my Bill will address.
“In response to parliamentary questions I posed to departments on 14 February, it was disclosed that cost overruns on capital projects have been a consistent pattern of public project delivery since this Fine Gael government came to power.
“Since 2011, 20 capital projects in the Department of Health have had cost overruns, and that excludes the National Children’s Hospital. One of them, Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, had a 56% cost overrun above the initially agreed cost.
“Since 2011, an average overspend of 6% has taken place in capital projects in the Department of Education. While the Department of Justice has seen overruns in Midlands Prison and Cork Prison capital projects of 40% and 37% respectively, worth a combined €22 million.
“These figures exclude the €450 million overspend at the National Children’s Hospital and the debacle of the National Broadband Plan, but proves this government is reckless and incompetent in its delivery of capital projects.
“My Regulation of Tenderers Bill will go some way to remedy that incompetence”