€30m Government pledge to Páirc Uí Chaoimh made 'in unsatisfactory manner'
THE head of the Dáil's spending watchdog has expressed concern at the manner in which the Government promised €30m towards the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness said it was "totally unsatisfactory" that the money was pledged without the Cabinet having first considering a business plan for the €70m project.
Officials confirmed this week that the Government decision last May, just days before the local and European elections, was made in the absence of any cost benefit analysis.
Under the public spending code, projects costing over €20m should be subject to a cost benefit analysis before being approved.
When an analysis document was subsequently produced the following December by the Cork County Board, it was heavily criticised by officials at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) and none of the funding has been allocated to date.
"That an allocation could be promised without the appropriate conditions and without a business plan is totally unsatisfactory," said Mr McGuinness.
"The principle of transparency and accountability has to be applied in each and every case."
A DPER official who critiqued the board's cost benefit analysis said projected attendances for non-sporting events may have been "over optimistic". The official also queried projections on employment creation and said estimates on the economic benefits for local businesses and tourism needed further clarification.
However, in a statement yesterday, the board stood over its analysis document and said it was in "ongoing dialogue" with the department.
"The board is confident that the basis of the business case for the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh is correct and will be pleased to provide any further information or clarification requested by the department as part of the process now underway," it said.
The board insisted that none of the €30m had been withheld and said it had yet to request the draw-down of any of the money. The statement added that it was "entirely appropriate and is the norm that any case being made for the expenditure of public monies would be subject to rigorous examination".
One source with knowledge of the funding process told the Irish Independent there had been "considerable unrest" within the county board when its business plan was criticised.
"Certainly they were not pleased. But just because the Government announced funding doesn't mean it is automatically handed over. Due diligence still has to be done," the source said.
"There can't be any draw-down in funds until requirements are satisfied."
Work on the redevelopment, €40m of which is being funded by the GAA, has already begun.
A new 45,000-capacity stadium is scheduled to be ready in time for the 2017 Munster football final and the ground will also form part of Ireland's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.