Thursday, 19 January 2023
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Flood Risk Management
118. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide an update on the selection of a contractor for the Glashaboy flood relief scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2162/23]
I want to raise the issue of the Glashaboy flood relief scheme. As the Minster of State is aware, it went out for tender over 12 months ago and tenders were submitted. Unfortunately, the contractor who was awarded the contract was not able to do the work on the basis of the price quoted and the timescale set out in the tender that was submitted. Where are we now in relation to that? It was re-advertised and new tenders were submitted.
Has a contractor been appointed? When is the work likely to commence? What is the completion date for carrying out that work?
I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 135 together.
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue and for his continued interest in alleviating the problems in the Glanmire area.
I am advised that the Glashaboy river flood relief scheme is being progressed by Cork City Council. The OPW, in partnership with Cork City Council, is engaging proactively to progress the flood relief scheme for Glanmire.
The scheme was confirmed in January 2021 by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under the Arterial Drainage Acts, 1945 to 1995, and is being funded from the OPW's €1.3 billion allocation under flood relief measures in the NDP and as part of Project Ireland 2040.
Tender documentation for the procurement and appointment of a contractor was issued in September 2021 with a return date of 24January 2022 but, unfortunately, Cork City Council, which is the contracting authority in this case, was not in a position to appoint a contractor for the works on foot of this procurement process due to the inflationary market that arose during the evaluation and assessment period.
The council was hoping that the tender for the contractor would issue before the end of last year. A review of the commercial risks associated with the tender documentation involved some additional technical assessment prior to issuing the tender documentation. I have now been informed that the council is proceeding towards issuing tender documents by the end of this month.
Following the appointment of a civil works contractor, works are scheduled to commence in quarter 2 of this year. The key project partners are working to minimise the overall delay in the completion of these works recognising the significance of the issue for the people in the Glanmire area and the associated housing developments and businesses.
When this flooding occurred, which was more than ten years ago, houses had up to 4 ft of water in them. People have been living in fear in that area since then.
I am a little concerned that the tender documentation has still not been finalised. The question is about the time period for submissions to be made once that becomes available and then the important issue of the contractor being contacted and awarded the contract. There was too much of a delay the last time around. Tenders were submitted and acceptance was acknowledged. The contractor that was awarded the contract was written to. Can there be clear guidelines that once the tender documents are agreed and made available and advertised and the tenders are received, a decision is taken within a short period in order that we can get on with this contract and remove the fear that currently exists in the Glanmire area? This is important. It is a residential area. The flooding affects the entire population of Glanmire with people not being able to access schools and work. I ask that the scheme be prioritised and that time periods be clearly set out.
From the point of view of the OPW, which is the funding authority, this is being prioritised. In any engagement I have had with the CEO of Cork City Council, this has been to the fore in our discussions. I am due to visit Cork again shortly.
I recognise that this is not an insignificant scheme. A total of 103 properties are being defended, which are a mixture of personal and business. It will take up to 24 months to finish the construction but in the period since the previous tendering process stopped and this one was initiated, it has not been that Cork City Council and the OPW have been doing nothing. We have used that period to make sure any potential issues that arise during the construction phase will be minimised.
It is regrettable, though, that some people have used what was an unprecedented inflationary environment during which tenders had to be withdrawn for political purposes. Some people, for instance, started a postcard campaign and tried to create the impression that this was not a priority or, indeed, was not being progressed by Cork City Council or the OPW. That is erroneous. It is not fair to the people who are doing it. It is not fair to our engineers, the outdoor staff of the council, the OPW or anybody who wants to get this done. It is particularly unfair to the communities of Glanmire, Glashaboy, Meadowlands and all those areas who want this built to see somebody come in and try to politically capture and make hay out of this issue, which is grossly unfair.
I acknowledge both the Minister of State and his Department and, indeed, Cork City Council for the work they have done. It needs to be ensured timelines are clearly set out in order that we can get on with it. I appreciate the work that has been done to date. It is unfortunate that inflation caught up with the council when the first round of the project was first advertised for tenders to be submitted. It needs to be given priority now, as it has been two years. It should be awarded hopefully within the next two to three months so that the council can get on with the project.
Nobody could have anticipated the inflationary environment in which the OPW and the council found ourselves. While it was a huge disappointment that the contractor withdrew from the contract, was it a surprise given that construction inflation was probably running of the order of 20% or 30% or whatever percentage it was at the time? It has eased considerably and at least we are now in a stable environment.
This is not an issue about money. Some people are trying to portray that politically but it is not. If we did not follow the procurement rules that are laid out by the Office of Government Procurement, and if Cork City Council, as the tendering authority, did not follow those, I would have an entirely different set of questions to be answerable to the House on today.
We are committed to this scheme and the money is in place. It will take approximately 24 months to build it. It is one of the priorities for the OPW because we recognise the risk. It also a key priority for Cork City Council. I thank the Deputy for his interest in it because I am aware of the suffering of the people in that area. Some of them are from my own part of the world. They have been constantly engaged with me and they recognise the efforts that have been made by local representatives. Again, however, I reiterate my appeal to politicians not to play politics with something so sensitive as people's fears around water coming through their front doors. It is grossly unfair.