Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Over-budget PSNI college: new bids will not be sought

A proposed multi-million pound police training facility will not be put out for a fresh tendering process after initial bids for the project ran tens of millions of pounds over budget.

The unsuccessful bidding process for the build was revealed in the Belfast Telegraph last month, but on Thursday the foul-up was finally confirmed during a meeting of the justice committee.

A massive underestimation of building costs for the facility at Desertcreat outside Cookstown could lead to a delay in the project, originally due to be finished in 2008.

During the meeting, MLAs were told five bidders were "substantially over the available budget", initially estimated at around £135m.

According to the Department of Justice, "investigations have been carried out on behalf of the Desertcreat Programme Board" in order to establish what caused the divergence between the "anticipated costs and tenders received".

It is understood that the best price to come back from tender for the building costs was more than £30m over budget.

Last month the Belfast Telegraph reported that the DUP could pull the plug on the tender process for Northern Ireland's first police, prison and fire officer training centre because of the significant projected overspend.

It is believed Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is adamant a new tender process is launched as a result of the failure.

Last night a spokesman for the Department of Justice said the project would not go out for a fresh round of tendering.

Yesterday's committee heard that work was "under way to identify options to reduce costs" which would "not compromise the functionality of the college".

SDLP justice committee member Alban Maginness said while "initially shocked" at what had happened, he was "convinced" the board overseeing the project "had a handle on the situation".

"A number of satisfactory proposals have been introduced to reduce the cost in a substantial way," he said.

The tendering problems are the latest in a long list of setbacks for the college since plans were first announced in 2004.

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