More than €31 million of taxpayers’ money was overpaid by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in five property deals over a four-year period, an internal report has found.

Completed last year by two surveyors working for the OPW, the report has since been sent by OPW management to the Comptroller and Auditor General and has recently been sent to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The unpublished report, seen by The Irish Times, concluded the Civil Service culture in the OPW was resulting in “poor value for money outcomes”. It claimed there was “considerable potential for corruption to arise in property transactions” conducted by the OPW, because waste of funds “is tolerated within the system”.

The five transactions examined by the surveyors, one of whom has since retired, included the controversial Thornton Hall site in north Dublin, which had been earmarked for a prison but still lies vacant; a property in Galway which houses the Revenue Commissioners, a site bought for Department of Education offices in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, and land in Kildare.

The report claimed the Thornton Hall site cost €20 million more than an alternative site, due to a subsequent need to purchase extra nearby land, and develop an access road. The Thornton Hall site itself was purchased in 2005 for €29.9 million, but the project never materialised.

The report concluded it was “hard to see” reasons for the eagerness to purchase the site, given the additional costs needed to address access problems.

An estimated €1.4 million was overpaid on a property in Fairgreen, Galway city, for the Revenue Commissioners, due to an error calculating the rent to be paid, costing an extra €141,000 a year, the report said.

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Source: The Irish Times