Tuesday 24 April 2018

Record on debt-ridden state boards defended

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

PRESIDENTIAL election candidate Mary Davis last night defended controversial decisions taken while she was on the boards of Campus and Stadium Ireland Development (CSID), the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and ICS Building Society.

The entire CSID project, which Ms Davis was a director of for a decade, was beset with controversies from the very beginning.

Last month the Comptroller and Auditor General published a review of its operations, which was critical of costs run up by the agency. He reported that the cost of building the National Aquatic Centre amounted to €73.4m, a massive increase on the original estimate of Ir£30m.

He also concluded that an unsuccessful legal action taken by CSID to recover €10.2m in VAT on the cost of construction "would not have conferred any additional benefit to the Exchequer".

The National Aquatic Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin, was completed in time for the Special Olympics World Games in 2003, amid accusations that planning and construction were rushed to meet that deadline.

Ms Davis would not be drawn on whether she had any reservations about the speed with which the contractor built the centre.

"The completion of the aquatic centre was essential for Ireland's hosting of the 2003 Special Olympics' and said that the board of the agency took decision after consulting with the government and seeking legal and financial advice," she said.


On the DAA's decision to approve the construction of Terminal Two, which contributed greatly to the authority's debts of more than €1bn, she said that "large infrastructural projects ... are often the subject of debate". Also, during her time as a director of the DAA, the board approved pay packages of up to €638,500 for chief executive Declan Collier. Ms Davis did not reply when asked if she had reservations about the sums paid to Mr Collier.

The candidate also spent just over six years on the board of ICS Building Society, a subsidiary of Bank of Ireland.

In 2005, it began to offer 100pc mortgages for customers -- a decision that Bank of Ireland has confirmed was approved by the board of directors. The practice of offering 100pc mortgages has been blamed in part for fuelling the ill-fated property boom that led to the economic crisis. Asked if she had approved of the practice of offering 100pc mortgages, Ms Davis said: "ICS Building Society specialised in providing residential mortgages to existing and first-time buyers. All decisions taken by the board were of course, taken as a collective."

On Wednesday she said that presidential candidates needed to be people who "have shown judgment in their past life and have shown that they can make sensible decisions". Last night she stood by her role on various boards saying: "In any positions I have taken I have brought with me my experience of managing a very large national and international organisation."

She said that she had used this experience to provide advice to more than 20 organisations, including charities and boards of directors.

Irish Independent

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