GAA chief 'mystified' at cost-benefit request for €70m stadium plan
Published 08/06/2015 | 02:30
A senior GAA administrator was said to be "mystified" when Government officials asked for a cost benefit analysis for the proposed €70m redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Cork County Board secretary Frank Murphy expressed surprise when additional financial information was sought by civil servants, according to emails released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The stadium plan, set to receive €30m in public funding, has been at the centre of controversy after the Irish Independent revealed Department of Public Expenditure and Reform officials' concerns at certain projections made by the county board. These included anticipated attendances for non-sporting events and employment projections.
Civil servants have made it clear to the GAA that the promised funding cannot be released until various appraisal requirements are met, including the submission of an adequate cost-benefit analysis.
The Cabinet decided to allocate €30m towards the project in May 2014, just days before the local and European elections.
But it subsequently emerged the decision was taken in the absence of a full cost-benefit analysis, despite this being a requirement of the Government's own public spending code.
Emails released to the Irish Independent reveal that the Cork County Board did submit a number of documents, including a prospectus outlining a case for funding and a file containing additional information.
However, a senior DPER official said these were not sufficient to meet requirements under the code.
According to an email exchange between two Government officials in January, Mr Murphy, who is heavily involved in the project, queried why the board was being required to submit further documents.
One official, who had just spoken to Mr Murphy, wrote: "He is mystified as to how this CBA could be required when a Government decision to allocate the grant has already been made ... and material had already been provided by the Cork County Board."
Asked to comment on the content of the email, the Cork County Board said in a statement it was "fully engaged with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in ascertaining and providing the full range of technical and financial information required for State funding for the project".
It added: "It is the very clear position of the board from the beginning of this process that any case for the expenditure of public monies has to be fully documented and examined.
"Any suggestion to the contrary could not be further from the truth and flies in the face of the considerable body of work that has been undertaken by the board and its secretary in providing information required and requested in the process that is ongoing." In addition to €30m pledged by the Government, €40m from GAA coffers is to be spent on the project.
A new 45,000-capacity stadium is scheduled to be ready in time for the 2017 Munster football final and is also set to form part of Ireland's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Another email released to the Irish Independent showed a DPER official recommended that additional information be sought so there could be an assessment of whether or not the redevelopment could be funded "with a lower level of Government contribution".
In a statement, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said it was in on-going discussions with the county board "in relation to the production of a cost-benefit analysis". It said the board had not sought to draw down any of the promised Government funding.
"This department has not formally allocated a grant yet, as the requirements of the public spending code and the Sports Capital Programme have to be complied with before a formal letter of offer would be issued," the statement said.