McGuinness temporarily leaves chair as PAC investigates office
THE chairman of the Dail public spending watchdog temporarily vacated the chair of his committee this morning while it investigated the kit out of his €250,000 office when he was a junior minister.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness handed over the committee to Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe after agreeing to a request from Labour TD Ged Nash.
The PAC is hearing from the Office of Public Works (OPW), and chairman Clare McGrath said the spend was in line with "the benchmark for executive accommodation" when it was built in 2007, when Mr McGuinness was appointed a junior minister in the Department of Enterprise.
Mr Nash called the spending extraordinary, and Ms McGrath said some of this could be put down to the building on Kildare Street being a protected building, but could not say exactly how much.
Mr McGuinness himself asked questions, and said he had no idea of its cost. He said he wouldn't have believed someone if they told him how much the office cost when he walked in its door.
He also said: "If I knew then what I know now, I would have added another chapter to my book". Ms McGrath said the OPW had "no contact with the minister in question, any correspondence would be with the department".
Mr McGuinness stressed there was "no input by me whatsoever" and said he would leave "no stone unturned" in getting to the truth. But he admitted the spend was "a considerable amount of money".
He also asked Ms McGrath about the use of toilet roll in his office, after emails revealed he was only allowed use higher end toilet roll in his ministerial bathroom.
She replied that there was standard toilet roll supply for government departments, with a centralised contract worth €2m.
"These are not for my use, these €2m," Mr McGuinness joked. "These are used for government departments."
Mr McGuinness has now resumed chair at the meeting.