Thursday 25 December 2014

Spend on office for ex-minister nearly three times the norm

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 22/05/2013 | 05:00

John McGuinness,Fianna Fail deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny
John McGuinness,Fianna Fail deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny

THE office kit-out for the chairman of the Dail public spending watchdog when he was a minister was almost three times more expensive than the nearest comparable ministerial office, according to documents supplied to the chairman's own committee.

Following Irish Independent revelations of the €250,000 kit-out for an office for Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness when he was a junior minister, Mr McGuinness agreed that the PAC should look at all ministerial offices.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has now written back to the PAC detailing the office spend and comparing it to other ministerial offices.

The OPW letter, seen by the Irish Independent, says Mr McGuinness's office in the Department of Enterprise cost €206,000 in 2007, but this would rise to around €250,000 when VAT is added.

The OPW documents will form the basis of discussion on ministerial office costs at the PAC tomorrow morning.

Since Mr McGuinness's office was the first new ministerial office in "many years", the OPW said there are "no direct comparator projects". However, it added: "The nearest comparator was for a new office fit-out relating to the establishment of the Department of Health and Children in Hawkins House in 2007.

"This project included a ministerial office and an open-plan office for the minster's staff. The ministerial element of this project cost approximately €70,000 (excluding VAT)."

There has been some confusion over the exact cost of Mr McGuinness's office, with the Carlow-Kilkenny TD himself saying it was €290,000.

However, this included work carried out on the bathroom of the secretary general of the Department of Enterprise at the time. An office had to be made for Mr McGuinness in the department on Kildare Street since Bertie Ahern increased the number of junior ministers from 17 to 20 at that time.

When the costs were first revealed last month, Mr McGuinness told the PAC: "I have nothing to hide and I want the whole thing investigated." And he agreed with requests from committee members to extend the investigation into the cost of office refurbishments for other ministers and senior civil servants.

But the OPW said "most ministers/ ministers of state and senior officials move directly into existing vacated offices/suites with only minor works required". The OPW also said "great care" had to be taken because the building is a protected structure.

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"As this was a new minister of state post, the project was the first fit out of a ministerial office in this building (the Department of Enterprise) for many years."

Mr McGuinness has always insisted he had no part in the cost or specifications, but merely approved the broad outline.

It follows revelations in the Irish Independent last week that Mr McGuinness's son Andrew was paid €30,000 in overtime in one year alone, on top of a salary of €42,000, when working as his father's hand-picked ministerial aide.

Irish Independent

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