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Sunday 30 April 2017

Staff and executives spent €500,000 on DDDA credit cards

Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

EXECUTIVES and staff at the crisis-hit Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) racked up credit card bills totalling more than €500,000, an Irish Independent investigation has found.

The bills include several unexplained expenses which the authority has refused to comment on or explain.

These include the DDDA -- which has accumulated losses of more than €200m -- picking up the tab for:



  • A flight to Paris for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
  • Large quantities of wine purchased for some board meetings.
  • Expenses relating to golf outings for board members.
  • €870 spent at jewellers Weir & Sons.
  • Almost €2,200 spent in two days at Claridge's, one of the most exclusive hotels in London.


The expenses, revealed in credit card receipts dating from August 2004 until October last year, give a startling insight into the high-flying lifestyle enjoyed by some at the authority.

In that period, the credit cards covered the cost of flights costing €210,000, €116,000 in hotel bills, and €82,700 in foreign and domestic restaurants bills.

The scale of the credit card bills is surprising given the commercial state body only had around 50 staff when the spending occurred. It has since been forced to halve its workforce in the face of €213m losses following some disastrous property deals.

The corporate credit cards used since 2004 were held by former chief executives Peter Coyne and Paul Maloney, current director of finance David Higgins and his predecessor Martin O'Sullivan.

However, the spending did not solely relate to the card holders and the cards were used to cover expenses of other individuals throughout the organisation.

In total, some €518,000 was spent using the cards, which had credit limits ranging between €10,000 and €40,000.

Although the DDDA defended much of the spending, it refused to answer a number of questions put forward by the Irish Independent in relation to specific expenses.

The DDDA responded to some questions, but ignored others entirely. Among the items of expenditure which were defended in the statement were payments to Smyth's Toys, Newbridge Silverware, and Manchester City and Middlesbrough football clubs. The DDDA said the UK football trips, in May 2006 and April 2009, were part of a programme it ran with local schools.

Jewellery

It said the toy purchase, in December 2005, related to "props for a team-building exercise" and that the Newbridge purchase in September 2007 was of pens and picture frames for gifts and presentations.

However, there was no response to queries about the World Cup flight payment, wine purchases, golf outings, purchases at Weirs or the use of Claridge's.

Other expenses revealed in the credit card statements include €2,503 spent on a staff outing to Ely CHQ restaurant in Dublin in October 2006. Another €6,447 was spent at the same restaurant the following March and €5,247 the following April. In addition, €2,847 was spent at the award-winning Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in April 2007.

The statements also reveal how credit card payments were made relating to a number of staff parties at Dublin's Lillie's Bordello nightclub.

Yesterday the Irish Independent revealed how foreign travel cost the authority €600,000 in just five years. Those expenses included luxury flights, top-class hotels, expensive meals, and wines for board members and executives.

It was revealed how former Anglo Irish Bank board members Sean FitzPatrick and DDDA executive Lar Bradshaw went on a number of costly junkets to the US, Finland, Russia, the Netherlands and Spain.

The revelations come as Environment Minister John Gormley faces intense pressure to publish corporate governance reports on planning and finance at the authority. Mr Gormley has said he will publish the reports after they have been considered by the Attorney General.

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