Letter from the Clerk to the Committee to the Private Secretary to the Minister for Justice
I have been asked by the Chairman of the sub-Committee, Mr. Liam Fitzgerald T.D., to state that the sub-Committee was appointed to review, inter alia, the cost overrun on the prison building programme.
Evidence was heard from Mr. J. Olden, Assistant Secretary of your Department on a number of occasions (11 September, 9 October and 6 December, 1984). Following those hearings additional information was sought by way of correspondence with the Secretary, Mr. Ward. His replies of 13 and 25 February 1985 refer.
Basically, the sub-Committee were seeking factual information on the background to the prison building cost overrun and your Secretary indicated that there were particular difficulties in relation to the provision of some of the information sought. In general the Members were dissatisfied with the written responses which appeared to suggest that the question raised fell outside the terms of reference of the Committee. The sub-Committee Members do not accept this view and furthermore, state that they will be unable to complete their reviews of this important issue in the absence of the details sought.
Enclosed for your information is a list of the major areas which require to be clarified by the sub-Committee before they can reach any definitive conclusion on the prison building cost overrun.
In the circumstances, the sub-Committee wish to meet the Minister for Justice as soon as possible to discuss the questions raised. If convenient and subject to your Minister’s schedule next Tuesday morning, 12 March (around 11 a.m.) would be suitable. Perhaps you would confirm. (Tel. 789911 - extension 772).
P. M. Judge
Clerk to the Committee
8 March, 1985.
Department of Justice - prisons capital expenditure
Main questions raised at the meeting held on 6 December, 1984.
1.Estimate the final costs of Wheatfield project.
2.Capacity of Wheatfield, Mountjoy and Portlaoise prisons.
3.Cost per place in Wheatfield.
4.Effect (in money terms) of design modifications on reducing cost per place at Wheatfield, Cork and Portlaoise.
5.Was an analysis of crime statistics and projections/trends undertaken before decisions were finalised in the case of the proposed new prisons? If so, what were these?
6.What other criteria were used in reaching decisions on the additional accommodation?
7.Can the Department of Justice elaborate on the details provided at Paragraph 6 of the letter of 1 October, 1984?
8.To what extent was money committed in relation to the four new proejcts?
9.Did Department of Justice data relating to the projects coincide with Department of Finance in all respects?
10.Give account of all steps taken from initial design to acquisition of site(s).
11.How were costs monitored by the Department or O.P.W.?
12.Why were re designs drawn up when it was clear that adequate funds would not be available?
13.What is state of play of other three centres apart from Wheatfield?
14.The sub-Committee would like to have a copy of an O.P.W. monthly or quarterly report on progress at Wheatfield.
15.Why was it decided to proceed with four new prisons which would add an extra 40 per cent to existing accommodation?
16.Why did the Department originally ask for designs for small units which could not easily be expanded when projections indicated that the daily averages up to the end of the century would be on the increase?
17.Why were redesigns on all four projects undertaken in 1981 at a time when there was an economic climate which should have suggested that funds for such capital proejcts might not be available?
18.Why did work commence in Wheatfield in 1980 in the absence of detailed sketches?