No public bidding process took place for the building contracts to furnish the Student Centre top floor. Works to construct offices for the Director of Student Services Dominic O’Keefe and his team on the top floor of the new Student Centre started before the Christmas. Dominic O’Keefe is the manager of the Student Centre and Student Services.
The building contract to construct the offices for O’Keefe and his administrative team were not put out to a public bidding or ‘tendering’ process. Government guidelines introduced to ensure value for public money state that all contracts over the value of €25,000 must be put out to an open bidding process. The UCD procurement office (who manage the college’s tendering processes) stated that they ‘don’t have any record of a tender for the works being run through this office’ for the Student Centre top floor development.
Instead the works were divided into several smaller contracts, meaning the value on each did not exceed the government €25,000 limit, and thus did not have to be put out to an open and transparent bidding process. A spokesperson for Student Services said that all works ‘were procured through the Works Framework Contract scheme that UCD has in place’ and that ‘no works package exceeded 25K’.
Instead the works were divided into several smaller contracts, meaning the value on each did not exceed the government €25,000 limit, and thus did not have to be put out to an open and transparent bidding process.
Controversially the top floor of the Centre was initially planned to be developed as a new space for the UCD medical and counselling service, the planned move was to allow the Health Service to expand with significantly more offices. The offices on the second floor were never constructed when the Student Centre was initially being built in 2012, and the floor was left unfurnished. However, the Tribune reported in November that the head of the Student Centre Dominic O’Keefe and his team would be moving into new offices in the unused top floor.
The government Department of Public Expenditure maintain that to ‘secure the best value for public money’ any contract over €25,000 should be advertised publicly. A spokesperson for the Department stated that ‘public procurement is governed by EU and National rules. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement [tendering] regime which delivers best value for money’. The Dáil public accounts committee also routinely looks to ensure colleges and universities are adhering to public procurement guidelines and not evading competitive practices in awarding building contracts with public monies.
Jack Power Editor