By Nigel Gallagher
The collapse of a British building company, Carillion, has exposed the policy of privatisation that has been promoted by successive governments.
Carillion was given a contract to design, build and operate the facilities at a number of schools and colleges.
These were the Loreto College, Wexford; Coláiste Ráithín, Bray, and St Philomena’s Primary School, Bray; Eureka Secondary School, Kells; Tyndall College, Carlow; and Carlow Institute of Further Education.
The scheme was known as a Public Private Partnership and was an idea imported into Ireland from Britain.
Under this arrangement, the state enters into a contract with a private company to both build and operate a facility for 25 years.
The government is supposed to pay a fee for the services provided by the private company and becomes locked into a contract where it pays out exorbitant sums for work its own employees could do.
Department of Education officials backed PPPs because they argued that the private sector as more efficient. Instead of employing its own staff to act as caretakers for schools, they wanted to outsource the work to a private company.
In all 28 schools, catering for 20,000 pupils, were handed out to private companies under PPPs.
Carillion and its partner, Dutch Infrastructure Fund, won the contract to operate five of these.
The contracts that exist between private companies like Carillion and the Irish state are kept secret, apparently for reasons of ‘commercial secrecy’. Even Dáil TDs are not allowed to see the contracts.
However reports in the financial press indicated that Carillion and its Dutch partner put up £9 million in investment but expected to gain £150 million in fees from the Irish state over 27 years.
Carillion, however, typified the worst forms of greed in modern capitalism.
Shareholders dividends of £70 to £80 million were issued each year. Carillion also gave their directors Richard Howson and Richard Adam salaries of £1.5 million and £1 million respectively.
Carrillion specialised in lobbying right wing politician to win contracts. Questions must now be asked how they won their contract from a Fine Gael led government in 2012.
In the meantime, school students and teachers are suffering from the collapse.
Gearóid Ó Ciaráin, principal of Coláiste Ráithín secondary school in Bray, Co Wicklow, said: “We were told we’d get the keys last Monday, now it’s indefinite.”
We are in dire straits here," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland
. "It seems outrageous that we can't move into it."
“We took on extra teachers for home economics and PE because we wanted to hit the new building running. Now the home economics teacher brings her own iron in from home in order to try and keep it going in an ordinary classroom, no cooking facilities at all, and she’s very worried that she cannot comply with the normal curriculum.
Building workers have also lost their jobs.
And all of this because of the greed of a small few who get contracts from the Irish state.
It is time to end forever the policy of privatisation.
___________________________________________________________________________Nigel Gallagher is the Sligo-based General Election candidate for People Before Profit