Tuesday, 16 November 2021
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
As the Deputy will be aware, the Office of Public Works (OPW) manages and maintains a substantial and complex estate - approximately 2,500 properties and sites valued at around €3.3 billion.
It is a diverse portfolio that includes office accommodation for all Government Departments, the property estate for An Garda Síochána and numerous properties for many State Agencies. The portfolio also houses specialised spaces such as public offices, laboratories, cultural institutions, warehouses, heritage properties, visitor centres and sites.
In any major portfolio, there will always be a certain level of vacant properties and sites. Not all vacant properties and sites are deemed surplus to the State’s requirements or deemed suitable for disposal.
The OPW, like other State bodies, is obliged to follow central Government policies and protocols on the disposal of surplus properties.
As a matter of policy, no property or site is disposed of until there is absolute certainty that there is no alternative State use for that property.
The OPW’s approach to managing vacant properties and sites is first, to establish if the property or site is needed for alternative State use; if it can be re-purposed for Government Departments or the wider public service, including the Land Development Agency and Local Authorities.
A number of strategic properties or sites are retained in case of future State use or development. We have to be in a position to meet demands arising from Government policy changes to public service provision.
Second, if no State use is identified, the OPW considers open market disposal – depending on market conditions.
Third, we may consider community involvement, depending on a detailed submission showing that a community or voluntary group can insure, maintain and manage the property or site.
I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that there are currently 33 vacant sites.
The maintenance costs for the sites were 2019: €21,500; 2020: €14,400 and 2021 (up to 12 November): €24,400. There were no specific security costs associated with these sites for the years in question.