PAC ire at €10m aquatic centre debacle
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will next week publish a damning report into the €10m tax debacle associated with the National Aquatic Centre -- the pet project of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
The report is set to conclude that John O'Donoghue's Department of Sport pursued a "wasteful" eight-year multimillion legal battle over a Vat bill with the then operator, Dublin Waterworld.
The case "should not have happened" the PAC concludes, as there was "no net benefit" to the State.
In a forensic examination, the PAC concludes the fiasco cost millions and was based on such a "sketchy" strategy that it "reflects poorly" on the Department of Sport.
The department had pressed on with the case despite advice from both the Attorney General and the Comptroller and Auditor General that it should drop the matter.
In a particularly damning section, the PAC concludes that key information was "withheld" from Dublin Waterworld which, if it had been disclosed, would have halted the case early on. The PAC describes this as a "critical failure".
The committee also lashes at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), who acted as the advisers to Campus Stadium Ireland Development on the Vat issue. PwC declined to comment on the matter when questioned by the Sunday Independent last Friday.
The report states that the Department of Sport took, time and again, the most expensive legal route rather than trying to settle the matter early by mutual agreement.
It found that the department relied only on oral advice from the Department of Finance -- and that this advice was in any event wrong -- before embarking on its epic and wasteful legal battle.
The PAC, which is chaired by John McGuinness, also criticised the Revenue Commissioners for not updating their guidelines to make it clear the case was pointless.
The PAC is also expected to issue a number of recommendations next week to help prevent wasteful legal battles taking place again as well as make specific recommendations in relation to the showcase swimming pool.