The Dáil's most senior official has begun an investigation into how colleagues spent over €1m on a printer that could not fit into the building and had to be placed in costly storage.

RTÉ News has learned Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan will hold a fast-track inquiry into the spending controversy.

He will update the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee on its findings by the end of this week, despite previously failing to tell TDs what happened during an autumn financial meeting.

Over the weekend, it emerged Oireachtas officials spent €808,000 on a state-of-the-art printer for the campus, plus costly structural works to accommodate the new equipment.

Emails confirmed the price of the Komori printer in addition to €236,000 worth of structural works to fit it into the building, due to the need to tear down walls and embed structural steel to give it the height clearance needed to operate.

However, when the printer arrived at the Oireachtas on 5 December last year, it became apparent the printer, which is 2.1 metres high and 1.9 metres wide, would not fit into the space.

The printer was subsequently placed in storage at Ballymount Industrial Estate at a cost of €2,000 a month, before it was eventually put in place on 28 September this year.

The costly error has led to a public and political outcry over spending transparency within the Oireachtas, with a number of PAC members raising concern over how the issue was not highlighted during a recent meeting with officials this autumn.

Responding to the concerns in a letter sent to the PAC yesterday, which has been obtained by RTÉ News, Mr Finnegan has confirmed he will now launch a fast-track investigation into what happened.

"Further to recent media coverage on the procurement of the new printing equipment for the Oireachtas print unit, I am preparing a report on the matter which I will submit to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission and the committee of public accounts this week.

"The report will deal with the full costs associated with the procurement together with any other relevant issues. It is my intention to have it ready in time for the PAC's meeting this Thursday.

"When members have had the opportunity to consider the report, I will be available to attend the PAC to make a statement and answer questions," Mr Finnegan wrote.

Mr Finnegan's printer price investigation is now expected to conclude by Thursday, at which point politicians will discuss whether to invite him and colleagues to attend a meeting in the coming weeks to explain the costly error.

'Duty of candour' on public officials appearing before committee - Fleming

The chairman of the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Sean Fleming has said there is a "duty of candour" on public officials appearing before it.

He was responding to questions about why the PAC was not given information from the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission about it spending €1m on a printer that did not fit in the building and had to be put in storage. 

When Oireachtas officials appeared before the committee on 11 July, Mr Fleming said they made a "fleeting reference" to extra spending on hardware. 

The Commission had come in under budget for the 2016 to 2018 funding cycle and, as it is unable to carry over a surplus, it made the decision to use funds to spend on Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

Mr Fleming said he "genuinely thought" that the money was being used because a number of TDs were getting new printers in their office. 

He said the Committee would have "appreciated had we got more information on the day" but that it will discuss the issue at its meeting on Thursday and will seek more information from the Oireachtas. 

"There is always a duty of candour on public officials appearing before the PAC, and to be helpful to us as well. Maybe we didn't ask the right questions, but sometimes you have to know what is going on to ask the right questions," he said.

Mr Fleming said the PAC hopes to get more information tomorrow in relation to the spending of €236,000 for structural works and the committee may take some time to go and see the work. 

Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell said the committee's examination of the issue should focus on whether there were attempts to conceal buildings costs under an ICT heading. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke earlier today, Mr Fleming said that despite the printer being paid for in 2018, it was his understanding that the printer would not be fully up and running until 2020.

He said: "All the works were carried out by the OPW in terms of adjusting the building. The printer is in place, but I haven't been able to confirm if it's in full use at this stage.

"It could be a situation where something that was actually paid for in 2018 might not actually commence operation until 2020. We would want details of that. We have to wait for more information, but clearly we have a lot of concerns."

There were concerns about staff being able to operate the printer, but Mr Fleming said "change is constant".

He said change in technology is "a fact of life" and that if a higher level of supervision is required to operate the printer, then training should be provided.

Mr Fleming said consultations with staff will have to take place, but that this "should have been sorted out" previously and not when the printer was ready to be switched on.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Sinn Féin TD and PAC member David Cullinane said: "It is all too common for a lack of planning and foresight on behalf of Government departments to result in additional costs for the taxpayer.

"Mr Finnegan will need to make himself available to the PAC to answer questions on how this happened and if he was aware of this when he appeared before the PAC."

Additional reporting: Mary Regan