Minister defends OPW over spending accusations

Yet more juicy stuff from the Public Accounts Committee.

The report says that over €19 million has been spent acquiring accommodation for asylum seekers which was never used. It also says it is likely that a considerable amount of this investment will be lost when the properties were sold.

The report also says that the cost of renovating a property for the Probation and Welfare Service ran to 10 times the original estimate of €150,000.

It also criticises a lease arrangement, originally entered into by Cork County Council , for the provision of temporary premises for Cork courthouse.

The report also reveals that the provision of overtime cover for prison officers on sick leave cost €8.6 million in 2002.

The Irish Times report continues:

The vice-chairman of the committee, John McGuinness (FF), said there had been a number of “ridiculous decisions” taken by the OPW in relation to property projects. He said that he hoped that the same would not happen in the roll-out of the Government’s decentralisation programme.

Mr McGuinness said he believed that if the OPW was a private company that it would be closed down as it could not go on with such losses. He said if Mr Parlon did not believe there were problems he should “take his head out of the sand”.

However, Sean Ardagh (FF)said that he would not accept that there was incompetence within the OPW.

Mr Parlon told The Irish Times yesterday the committee’s report was dated and unfair to the OPW.

He said the OPW had been involved in the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers in 120 locations around the country and the committee had highlighted five centres which were held up due to local legal challenges.

Mr Parlon said the OPW had generated €100 million last year from sales of State property. He said that if OPW was a private company he would be in line for a bonus payment. Mr Parlon described Mr McGuinness as “an opposition spokesman within the Government”. He said that Mr McGuinness was a constant critic and that he did not know what axe he had to grind.