The construction of a new centre in University College Dublin (UCD) is currently delayed and around €4.8 million over Budget. UCD President Andrew Deeks had expressed his concern over the building project, stating it risked a “diplomatic incident” between Ireland and China. The project was intended to be completed in late 2016 but now faces a deadline of late 2018 at the earliest.
The building is intended to house the university’s Confucius Institute, which is responsible for the teaching of the Chinese language and culture.
Recent Administration meetings have shown the construction process will likely require the allocation of a further €2 million, following a dispute with the projects current contractor, Glenman Corporation.
Documents from a UCD capital projects committee meeting, as seen by the Irish Times, outline that the contractor made “significant claims” for additional fees well after construction work had begun. In April 2016, an appeal for an additional funding failed to obtain an extra €2 million in government finance, after the lowest construction quote the project could obtain was €10.2 million, well above the originally agreed €7.4 million. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the September 2016 meeting of the UCD capital projects committee, show that as early as mid 2016 the contractor had already requested additional funding.
The additional €2 million in funding was approved by UCD last month, despite the college claiming “a final account has yet to be agreed with Glenman and the risk of further claims/disputes remains”. The Irish Times reports that during a recent meeting, several administration members questioned the university management of the project and the further increases in finances needed for a project already over budget, asking how another such incident can be avoided in the future.
In 2014 an agreement was reached by Prof Deeks, along with the Chinese and Irish Governments to each pay a total of €3 million towards the construction costs. UCD agreed to pay the remaining €1.4 million required at the time and to cover any potential rises in the cost of the construction project. As of November 2017, the share of the project being directly funded by UCD has increased to €6.4 million. In a 2016 letter to Department of Education general secretary Sean Ó Foghlú, Prof Deeks said he was worried upon learning that the project was “receiving considerable scrutiny at the highest levels of the Chinese Government”.
The building is currently being constructed at the center of the Belfield campus, and is the first purpose-built centre to house a Confucius Institute in Ireland, and the first to have been able to obtain direct capital funding from the Chinese government.