Thursday 14 November 2019

OPW chiefs to be grilled over 'culture of waste' allegations

Miesian Plaza: Health HQ
Miesian Plaza: Health HQ
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Chiefs in the Office of Public Works (OPW) are to be grilled by the Dáil's powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over an alleged "cultural indifference to waste of taxpayers' money".

An ex-employee who worked as a valuer in the OPW has made a disclosure to the PAC, urging the committee to investigate the body which is responsible for managing property on behalf of the State.

The former employee and a colleague reviewed five high value cases at the request of the OPW, and submitted the report to them.

The letter, parts of which are redacted, refers to a concern over "undeniable evidence of significant waste of public monies (estimate €30m between the five cases)".

The retired valuer alleged the OPW has been silent in relation to the report due to a "seeming cultural indifference to waste of taxpayers' money".

He suggests there is a culture which means employees are "made immune to the value of money by the guarantee that every year OPW will be insulated against the repercussions of poor/reckless financial decisions taken by the administration".

It also reads: "In short, delivery of accommodation trumps costs savings every day because the Department of Finance will (continue to) fund each and every infraction and insolvency is an impossibility."

A recent report from the Comptroller & Auditor General included an examination of the rental of Miesian Plaza - the Department of Health's new HQ - which lay empty for 17 months at a cost of more than €15m to the taxpayer. OPW officials are to come before PAC and it is expected the issues raised in the letter will be discussed then.

A spokesperson for the OPW said: "The OPW has engaged in a lengthy process with the complainant in an open and transparent manner over a number of years and has shared their report with the Comptroller & Auditor General. The OPW completely rejects claims that there exists a culture of indifference or disregard for taxpayer's money."

Irish Independent

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