Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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The €1m Irish printer that just wouldn’t fit

After the Irish government came under fire for spending €1m on a printer they couldn't fit through their parliament's doors, government staff are now refusing to be trained to use it. 

4th Dec 2019
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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komori printer
Komori Corporation_AW

Tensions are high in the Irish parliament, but not as high as their printer spending it seems.

In late 2018, the Irish government spent €808,000 on a ‘state-of-the-art' Komori GL-429 printing press to meet the paper-based demands of parliamentarians. However, when the printer arrived on 5 December 2018, its sheer size proved an impossible demand for the doors of the Oireachtas (the Irish houses of parliament).

The Komori company website lists the model as being 7.3 metres long, 2.68m wide and 2.1m high.

Since the installation failure, the printer has remained in storage at Ballymount Industrial Estate, costing €2,000 a month whilst structural works were taking place at the Oireachtas to make space for the colossal machine. Door frames were removed from the parliament building, walls were ripped down and, according to RTE, structural steel was embedded “to give it the height clearance needed to operate”. 

Ten months and a €230,000 construction bill later, the monster finally made it into the building. By the time the printer was settled into its new dwellings on 28 September this year, it had cost a total of €1,044,000, which is around £920,000 (using September’s exchange rates).

So why wasn’t the printer returned during the course of all of this expenditure?

It turns out that the contract signed required payment from the customer, “irrespective of difficulties now being experienced in respect of the required structural works.” And by the time the government realised a considerable amount more construction than just ‘minor works’ was necessary, it was far too late.

To find out why parliament authorities had failed to check the 3.1m entry height required to clear the master of printing, the Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan was assigned to compile a report for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Additional fees

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Finnegan’s report did not determine the reason authorities failed to correctly ascertain the printer’s instalment requirements. What the report did find, however, was a list of additional VAT-free, trade-free costs, that accompanied the Komori printer’s instalment:

  • Plate Making Device - Graphic & Paper Merchants:  €105,000 
  • Folding Machines - Portman Graphic Ltd: €100,000
  • Guillotines - Portman Graphic Ltd: €63,500 
  • Pile Turner - Portman Graphic Ltd: €37,000 

Therefore, in addition to the cost of the printer itself, building construction and its storage, the final total for the government printer is estimated at around €1,349,500. 

So how good is this printer?

According to its manufacturers, the printer is the “pinnacle of machine meeting complex next-generation needs”.

Unfortunately, nobody in Parliament has been able to test this yet. It seems staff are refusing to use the printer, pursuing further payment for training in order to work with their new mechanical overlord.

According to the chair of the PAC Sean Fleming, ‘the real tragedy is this printer was paid for last year, still not in operation 12 months later, and it'll be some time next year.’

Replies (4)

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By CMPACDGDB
05th Dec 2019 11:56

You have to laugh! My late father's favourite aphorism seems apposite: "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity".

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By North East Accountant
05th Dec 2019 12:41

It reminds me of a case up here a few years ago.

After an all expenses paid "fact finding trip" to the USA the North East Ambulance Service ordered some fancy boxy type US ambulances...........only to discover upon delivery that they wouldn't fit through the ambulance station doors!

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By SteLacca
05th Dec 2019 15:22

Quote:
According to the chair of the PAC Sean Fleming, ‘the real tragedy is this printer was paid for last year, still not in operation 12 months later, and it'll be some time next year.’

Next year? Nah! They need to wait for working Windows drivers. It could be obsolete by the time they are ready.

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By Brend201
05th Dec 2019 19:39

Unfortunately, this has become a national embarrassment for us Irish. A couple of people involved in the procurement appear to have got carried away in the excitement of getting a fantastic piece of kit. One little-remarked aspect of the process was that the Request For Proposals specified a maximum machine height, reflecting the low clearance originally available. However, at some stage after the RFP had been accepted, the machine supplier sent some documentation that included one page giving the dimensions of the printer. At that point, a careful purchaser would have noticed, immediately excluded the printer and started the process again. However, the crucial detail wasn't spotted and the parties proceeded to sign a contract and land us Irish taxpayers in this mess.

Needless to say, it is not expected that any person involved will suffer for their incompetence. Taxpayers' money doesn't seem to attract particularly onerous responsibilities.

Incidentally, the machine is to be used to produce printed information for the politicians in parliament (the Dáil). Typical examples are calendars, Christmas cards, posters etc at minimal cost to them. Another scandal, but I digress.

And SteLacca's forecast about obsolescence before commissioning could well prove to be accurate.

We have form in these things. If I had space and more time, I could tell you about our computerised voting machines and sundry other public sector IT procurement/development scandals.

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