independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

McGuinness faces PAC probe into money spent on his office

John McGuinness: watchdog chairman

THE chairman of the Dail public spending watchdog is facing calls from his own committee to investigate how €250,000 of taxpayers' money was spent kitting out his office when he was a junior minister.

John McGuinness, chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC), is now being asked to look at the spend on his office when he was a junior minister in the Department of Enterprise in 2007.

It comes after the Irish Independent this week revealed the money spent on the office, as well as €51,000 on refurbishments to a shower room for the top civil servant in the department at that time, included €2,300 on a "vanity unit".

Mr McGuinness insists he had no part in the specification or the costs of the office, but gave the go ahead for the work to be done because there was no space for him in the Kildare Street building.

But Fine Gael Wexford TD Liam Twomey said the money must be investigated.

"The refurbishment of John McGuinness's office represents highly questionable use of €250,000 of public funds and an apparent absence of ministerial oversight," Mr Twomey said.

Mr McGuinness did not return calls yesterday on the issue.

The cost of the ministerial office included €3,340 on two black leather chairs and a round table, with an additional €72 paid to swap the table because it was in the wrong colour; a cherry-wood desk for €4,850; a computer side-desk at €1,500; a boardroom table costing €4,500 and 10 "hide upholstery" chairs for €750 each.

Another €6,671 was spent on walnut storage cabinets and wardrobes.

If a member of the public writes into the PAC asking them to consider a matter, the committee must do so and decide whether to investigate it or not.

Labour TD Robert Dowds, who is a member of the committee, said: "If that was to come in as an item of correspondence, obviously we would have to consider it."

Emails in documents released to the Irish Independent show Mr McGuinness was "satisfied with the revised plans" but the Fianna Fail TD for Carlow-Kilkenny says he had no input into the cost.

The documents also show Mr McGuinness was only allowed to use luxury toilet rolls in the office, such as "Kittensoft, Inversoft and Andrex". It was advised that "lower-grade tissues (the old Oifig an tSolathair variety comes to mind) should be avoided" because of the toilet system installed in the office.

Irish Independent

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