Thursday, 13 October 2005
National Conference Centre.
Tenders for the provision of a national conference centre in the Dublin area were received from two consortia by the Office of Public Works on 20 May last, the deadline for the receipt of tenders. The rigorous assessment and evaluation of these tenders has now been completed and the report of the evaluation panel submitted to the national conference centre steering group. I expect a provisional preferred tenderer to be designated shortly. Subject to the outcome of the negotiations that will follow designation of the provisional preferred tenderer, it is envisaged that a decision on the award of the contract will be brought to Government at the earliest opportunity in 2006.
In the meantime, the Deputy will appreciate that I am constrained in what I can say at this stage in the process, and while I share the frustration of the House at the complex and exacting procedures involved, I am obliged not to jeopardise the competition and its successful conclusion by any departure from the strict rules and procedures involved.
It is clear the Dublin Port Company and the Anna Livia consortium have entered an arrangement regarding a site near the Point Depot. Is the Minister satisfied the Dublin Port Company followed all the proper procedures of public procurement in making this site available for the Anna Livia consortium in its bid for the national conference centre?
Issues regarding the sites proposed by the tenderers for the national conference centre are matters for their respective owners and parent Departments. Beyond that I cannot comment.
One of the central requirements of the laws governing public procurement is that if a site is available it should be put up for tender. In this case it seems the Dublin Port Company did not first put its site up for tender in order to protect the interest of the taxpayer. Surely what has happened here does not abide by the laws governing public procurement. We do not want another legal action, which could arise if all the procedures are not fully complied with in the case of the national conference centre.
I fully agree with the Deputy that we do not want a legal quagmire surrounding the national conference centre, which is why I repeat that any issues regarding the sites proposed by the tenderers for the national conference centre are matters for their respective owners and Departments. The procedures involved in a public private partnership are complex.
As part of the procedural requirements a public sector benchmark exercise and a benefit assessment were required before the detailed proposals could be initiated. In addition the preparation of the detailed project contract documentation was demanding and time consuming with details requiring careful scrutiny and consideration. The issue of the tender documentation to tenderers was followed by a lengthy process of consultation with the tenders intended, inter alia, to enable the OPW to provide clarification and where appropriate to take account of issues raised by tenderers thereby helping to ensure the quality and robustness of the tenders to be submitted. More recently the tenders received were required to undergo a rigorous and thorough assessment and evaluation. However, the report of the evaluation panel has been submitted to the steering group and we expect a provisional preferred tenderer to be designated shortly.
Everybody is bound by the rules which apply to this tender. The strict rules and procedures of the competition are such that I am not in a position to elaborate on the nature or substance of the steering group's works. However, it is intended to have a provisional preferred tenderer designated very soon.