Friday 22 June 2018

Revealed: The office block costing taxpayers €6.5m this year despite lying idle

OPW signed a lease on the Baggot Street building on December 22 Photo: Bloomberg
OPW signed a lease on the Baggot Street building on December 22 Photo: Bloomberg
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The taxpayer is set to pay €6.5m rent this year for a state-of-the-art office building despite the fact that no government department has yet moved in.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) signed a lease for the Miesian Plaza on Baggot Street in December 2016, but it will not be put into use until at least 2018.

The former Bank of Ireland headquarters is reported to be costing the state around €6.5m per year.

This premises will also be the new head quarters for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and will provide further accommodation for Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The move in date for all is expected to be in the first three months of 2018.

The Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants wrote to the department last May expressing concern about the proposed working environment in the new buiilding.

Department of Health staff are apprehensive about the impact of the open plan nature of the office  but the department has since confirmed it will be relocating despite the concerns of staff members.

Rent has been paid in line with the lease since December 2016 last the OPW confirmed to Independent.ie.

Sinn Féin deputy Louise O'Reilly, who raised the issue through a recent parliamentary question, said the payment of rent on the building was the "very definition of wasting money".

"It's outrageous... renting new headquarters when they knew they weren't ready to move when we are looking at people who desperately need potentially life saving drugs and they are told 'sorry we don't have the money'," she said.

"It's a slap in the face for those families who would be right to be upset that the money can be found for renting life-saving building but not founding for waiting lists or life saving drugs.

"You are talking about the type of money that could make a difference to people's lives.

"We had the Taosieach out again saying the intention of this Government is to balance the books but there is nothing fiscally prudent about renting offices that nobody is in," she said.

Ms O'Reilly said she would raise the issue with the Health Minister, Simon Harris, in the coming week.

The Department of Health said the Minister for Health has no role in relation to rent or lease agreements.

"The Office of Public Works should also be consulted regarding specific time frames for the readiness of the premises," a spokesman said.

"The Department of Health HQ Relocation Project to Baggot Street from Hawkins House is going ahead and preparations for the relocation are underway. There is an on-going engagement with staff in relation to the move."

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