Belfast Telegraph

Prison contracts are under fire

Prison bosses have been taken to task for awarding contracts worth around 95 million euro to one company without going to tender.

Glenbeigh Construction was given 73 projects at 15 prisons between 2004 and 2007.

The Dublin-based company was initially awarded a 2.37 million euro contract after a public competition but the Irish Prison Service (IPS) awarded the additional work without putting it out to tender.

The Dail's Public Accounts Committee said the contract had "exposed the taxpayer to potential and unnecessary risks of claims from other construction companies who could claim that they were denied a fair shot at the work in the capital programme."

Glenbeigh, which was awarded a number of previous contracts with the IPS, was contracted in 2004 to build an accommodation block at Loughan House in Co Cavan. In a report the Committee said the initial project was to build 50 spaces but instead a 60 bed unit was completed at Loughan at a cost of 4.7 million euro.

In the tender document the IPS said it reserved the right to extend the scope of the contract to take on a number of other projects. The Dail watchdog said it understood the nature of the tender notice meant the value of the contracts should not have exceeded 6 million euro.

But PAC chairman Bernard Allen said there was no evidence of any "cronyism" in awarding the extra contracts and claimed the IPS blamed pressure to provide more space.

Mr Allen said: "While we note the arguments made by the Irish Prison Service and we note that their procedures have changed since 2007, we do not accept the validity of their arguments or that they could have done things differently. I think that they were badly advised and should have gone to the Attorney General before they entered this series of contracts that eventually came to 97 million euro."

The 97 million euro contracts included 42 million euro work in Castlerea Prison, 5.71 million euro in Shelton Abbey, 4.443 million euro in Mountjoy and 20.9 million euro in "special service wide projects".

In a statement the IPS said it had complied with legislation and EU procurement law. "The Irish Prison Service is satisfied that value for money was achieved in respect of works carried out under the framework agreement," it said. It also highlighted there was scope to extend the contract and said it was coming under pressure from overcrowding.

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