Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 11 October 2018
Public Accounts Committee
2017 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 13 - Office of Public Works
Chapter 6: Lease of Offices at Miesian Plaza
Níl a fhios agam an cheart "go raibh maith agat" a rá mar fhreagra ar an easpa ban, ach is rud eile é sin. I am looking at the spending review from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is a very good overview. I am not too sure about the conclusions. I wish I was here looking at the OPW in respect of the very important work it carries out. It looks after over 2,000 buildings and flood prevention and relief, which are extremely important. I am going home tonight to a city threatened by a storm and possible flooding. I really wish we were doing that. I have always had the greatest respect for the OPW on the ground. It is an extremely important Department so I really regret that we are now mired in this. It is really putting forward the wrong view of the OPW whose role is essential in any functioning democracy. It is responsible for 2,000 buildings. I wish we were here looking at what the OPW feels or how it is implementing Government policy in respect of the colossal spend on rents - €96 million per year. I do not mean to be disrespectful in any way but the OPW should have as an addendum "the Office of Public Rents" because we are now in the market and are actively colluding with high rents in a market. These are just my general comments.
I return to the specifics and I hope I have a chance this afternoon to return to the many aspects I would like to address such as flood risk. In respect of the report, we are here today because the Comptroller and Auditor General produced this full document. Unfortunately, the OPW's handling of the Miesian Plaza affair gets an entire chapter, which is very unusual. I have read the chapter and the comments on it. I have read everything at this point. One could have a sense of being overwhelmed. I will deal first with the problem relating to the extra €300,000 per year as a result of miscalculations. It reminds me of when NAMA came before us and the debate was pushed into what was the appropriate percentage to use, which is not really relevant. What has happened here is that there was a negotiated rent based on certain measurements - net internal space or something like that - and an agreement was reached. The OPW then had to use other measurements that were introduced in January 2016 that should have resulted in the rent being recalibrated.