€4m wasted on build­ing that was not used

Irish Daily Mail - - News - Ir­ish Daily Mail Re­porter

AL­MOST €4mil­lion of tax­pay­ers’ money was spent by jus­tice chiefs on a build­ing that was never used.

The of­fices on Wolfe Tone Street in cen­tral Dublin were sup­posed to have been used for a com­mu­nity-based project funded by the Pro­ba­tion Ser­vice.

But a dis­pute over plan­ning rules for the prop­erty forced the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to leave it ly­ing empty for sev­eral years af­ter more than €1mil­lion was paid for a fit-out and an­other €1mil­lion in rent.

The tax­payer had to foot the bill for an­other €1.8mil­lion to set­tle a po­ten­tially pro­tracted and costly court­room bat­tle over the lease.

The Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral, the State’s spend­ing watch­dog, dis­closed that his of­fice had ex­am­ined the spend in its 2011 re­port. In his an­nual re­port for last year the C&AG said: ‘Sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts had been made to find an al­ter­na­tive use for the prop­erty but to no avail. As part of the set­tle­ment, the lease on this premises has now been ter­mi­nated and no fur­ther costs will be in­curred in re­la­tion to this prop­erty.’

He said is­sues about the of­fice’s suit­abil­ity for the Pro­ba­tion Ser­vice only came to light af­ter the lease was signed when it emerged there was no plan­ning per­mis­sion. The sub­se­quent law­suit was set­tled last year.

The is­sue was one of more than 20 re­ports on fi­nan­cial waste in the public ser­vice.

The C&AG’s re­port also looked back on a prop­erty deal linked to the Garda train­ing col­lege in Tem­ple­more. It said the State paid al­most €2mil­lion more for farm­land to ex­pand the col­lege than the guide price when the pur­chase was first ad­vised.

Dro­mard farm about 6km from the cen­tre was first up for auc­tion in May 2005 val­ued at €2.5mil­lion. A pri­vate sale went through in­stead of it go­ing un­der the ham­mer and 18 months later the Of­fice of Public Works paid €4.3mil­lion when it came back on the mar­ket.

The re­port also ex­am­ined the over-pay­ment of be­tween €100mil­lion and €120mil­lion a year in wel­fare ben­e­fits from 2013 to 2016. It said about half of it in 2013 was linked to fraud but by last year that had come down to 37%, about €41mil­lion.

The re­port also said there were 16,225 fraud­u­lent so­cial wel­fare over-pay­ments in 2016 and 1,305 of them were worth more than €5,000. It also showed that 222 cases were con­sid­ered by the Depart­ment of So­cial Pro­tec­tion’s for crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings.

In its ex­am­i­na­tion of the cor­po­ra­tion tax regime the C&AG found 13 of the top 100 com­pa­nies with the high­est tax­able in­come had an ef­fec­tive rate of less than 1% in 2015.

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