(From the Penguin website)

Organisations large and small spend up to 90% of their budgets on external suppliers of goods and services. Huge amounts of money flow between firms, yet most pay little attention to this element of their business. All too often billions are wasted on large-scale projects and the damage caused by corruption, ineptitude and mismanaged buying is hidden from shareholders and the public.

Why is the Berlin Brandenburg Airport ten years behind schedule and nearly four billion euros over budget? And what possessed Kenya’s government to spend a whopping $35 million on a chain link fence just six miles long?

By turns an entertaining account of some of the worst procurement scams in history and also a resounding lesson in how not to operate, Bad Buying offers clear and practical advice on how to avoid embarrassing mistakes, minimise needless waste and make sound, strategic procurement decisions on your next initiative.

The state-of-the-art, whizz-bang, latest technology printer that the Irish government bought in 2018 was going to produce wonderful documents at, one assumes, a competitive cost. The Komori equipment is highly rated, but there was only one problem for the government. 

When it arrived in Dublin, in December 2018, it simply didn’t fit into the building where it was supposed to be housed.  It had to be shipped off to a storage unit at Ballymount Industrial Estate, where it languished until September 2019 at a cost of €2,000 a month while building works were carried out – to “tear down walls and embed structural steel” to make room for the behemoth.  Now a report on the fiasco by Dail (the Irish parliament) clerk Peter Finnegan has revealed the cost of the episode, which seems to grow every time it is reviewed.

€230,000 (excluding VAT) was spent on “unanticipated renovations to the printing room” because the equipment just wouldn’t fit, because “ the requirements of the building and other regulations in relation to ‘head height’ were neither understood nor examined during the early critical stages of the project”. The cost of the printer itself and associated equipment reached €1,369,605.

There have also been reports that staff haven’t been happy about the new equipment, asking for further training and (rumours say) more money for operating it. The Register also reported that the “IT department is hesitant to grant access to the printer, making it difficult to print documents from official government computers”.

All in all, this is a great example of Bad Buying caused by failing to check in detail the specifications for what you’re buying and how that relates to the environment around what you’re buying.  And remember, even in the case of complex equipment, it is not just the technical specifications that matter – mundane issues such as size can cause just as many problems as some obscure technological flaw or failure!