Sunday 23 November 2014

OPW spends €500,000 rehiring former staff to work on projects

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Published 17/03/2014 | 02:30

OPW  Trim i.jpg
The Office of Public Works in Trim, Co Meath

The body that manages and maintains the State's property portfolio has spent almost €500,000 rehiring former staff on contracts in recent years.

Included in the figure are 12 former Office of Public Works employees rehired on contracts in 2012 at a cost of €198,790.

Many of these staff are understood to have received large, tax-free lump sums on their retirement. Lump-sum payments averaged out at €87,000 across the civil service that year, when 8,000 public servants left, many of them retiring early to avoid cuts in their pensions.

The OPW said that in several cases it had been necessary to bring back former employees on contracts to complete work they had been involved in prior to retiring. In other cases, they were brought back pending competitions to fill their jobs.

The public sector recruitment moratorium meant the jobs could not be filled by hiring new permanent staff, but there is no regulation blocking former staff being brought back on short-term contracts.

Figures seen by the Irish Independent show the practice has been used on several occasions by the OPW.

Some €148,438 was spent on contracting former staff in 2011, while €104,208 was spent in 2010 and €43,647 in 2009.

COST

The most recent batch of rehirings disclosed by the OPW, for 2012, include two principal officers who were brought back at a combined cost of €68,127. One was brought in to complete a disciplinary investigation, while the other had projects to finish.

Two district inspectors were rehired on contracts worth a combined €33,844 pending the filling of their jobs.

Similar reasons were given for the rehiring on contracts of two senior architects at a combined cost of €31,506.

An architectural assistant was brought back to finish a project that was nearing finalisation at a cost of €16,520.

A forester was also paid €14,922 to come back after his retirement to finish work on the John F Kennedy Memorial Park in New Ross, Co Wexford.

In a letter to the Dail's Public Accounts Committee, the OPW said the arrangements were necessary "to ensure continuity, so that projects were completed and were not adversely affected".

A spokeswoman for the OPW told the Irish Independent: "It has been necessary on occasion to seek approval to re-engage former staff members on the basis of their specific skillset or involvement in business-critical projects.

"These would have been subject to the approval of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform under the abatement principle. One staff member was retained under the abatement principle in 2013 for the duration of the EU presidency based on prior experience of event management at Dublin Castle at a cost of €28,295."

Irish Independent

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