Friday 24 October 2014

Temple Bar Trust to be wound down by the end of the year

Damning audit uncovers some serious mismanagement

Published 31/08/2014 | 02:30

The €2.7m umbrellas in Temple Bar

THE scandal-hit Temple Bar Cultural Trust (TBCT) will be formally wound down by the end of the year after a damning audit revealed serious failings behind the construction of four large umbrellas in the tourism hotspot, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan will this week tell councillors that "reputational damage" has been suffered following the discovery of major weaknesses and a significant overspend on the €2.7m Rainscreen project in Meeting House Square.

The 2011 project, which has since won a prestigious international architecture award, involved the construction of four inverted umbrellas which allows the square to host events during bad weather.

But the project, described as "magnificent" by former Dublin City Manager John Tierney, is now shrouded in major controversy.

Among the findings of the audit were that:

l Board minutes were altered and provided to Ulster Bank to support a loan;

l Reams of financial data relating to the project were deleted from the trust's computer system;

l A total of €2.7m of taxpayers' money was spent on the project - despite just €2m being budgeted;

l A series of different works were commissioned without following proper procurement procedures.

The audit concluded that the number and the extent of weaknesses uncovered represents "unacceptable exposure and risk".

The project was given the most serious rating by an audit team with Dublin City Council.

According to documents obtained by the Sunday Independent, Failte Ireland - which provided €1.54m in funding - was advised that the project had proceeded contrary to Department of Finance guidelines.

Among the most serious findings reported by the audit relates to altered board minutes which were subsequently provided to Ulster Bank to support a loan.

The actual minutes detailed concern raised by two board members, Councillor Mannix Flynn and Martin Harte, about the decision to spend such a significant sum on the project.

However, the audit team found that the concern raised by the directors was omitted from extracted minutes provided to the bank.

"This matter requires an immediate review by the TBCT Board and the company solicitors," the audit states.

The deletion of reams of data also alarmed auditors who described the development as a "significant event".

It was revealed that three months of financial entries in both 2012 and 2011 were lost.

The audit also discovered a number of works were commissioned without procurement rules being followed.

Sean Harrington Architects was paid almost €200,000 by TBCT and given the option to use the square exclusively on ten different occasions, which is valued at €35,000.

The report found no evidence that a competitive procurement process took place prior to the company's appointment.

Mr Harrington declined to comment when contacted by the Sunday Independent.

The audit is one of several damning reports that have exposed serious mismanagement by TBCT over the past three years.

New Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan will tell councillors at a meeting tomorrow that he expects the trust to be scrapped by the end of the year, with its functions being subsumed by Dublin City Council.

In correspondence seen by this newspaper, Mr Keegan also told how he plans to wind down the TBCT by the end of the year.

He stated that the report has "exposed serious instances of weak governance and administration during its term and this has caused reputational damage to the otherwise transformational work carried out by Temple Bar Properties Limited since it was established in 1991".

Mr Keegan will also detail a consultation process initiated by the council which aims to develop "a new vision for the Temple Bar area".

Sunday Independent

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