Irish taxpayers foot €1m bill for firetrap apartments

Taxpayers have paid out €1m to cover the initial cost of ensuring the safety of residents in the Longboat Quay apartment block which was found to be a firetrap last year, the Public Accounts Committee heard yesterday.

Irish taxpayers foot €1m bill for firetrap apartments

The development in the Dublin docklands was built in 2006 by developer Brendan McNamara whose company has since been put into receivership saddling the State with the bill for repairing and upgrading the complex, as revealed by the Irish Examiner last week.

Appearing before the PAC yesterday, representatives of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) — which is in the process of being wound down — told the committee that €1m had been spent to date, including on the provision of fire marshals and upgrading the fire alarm system.

DDDA financial adviser John Crawley said that a dozen fire wardens had been hired at a cost of between €400,000 and €500,000 with the numbers gradually reducing from July of last year until last month as the alarm upgrade progressed.

The next stage in dealing with the issue which, he said came to their attention in June 2014, is to examine the deficiencies and quantify the scale of the costs.

He added that some right of recourse to third parties still exists which may reduce what is likely to be a substantial bill once works are completed.

Mr Crawley was also quizzed over the authority’s failure to tender for a number of contracts in 2013 worth a cumulative €660,000 — including €500,000 to his own firm Crawley Business Consulting.

The contract awarded to Mr Crawley’s firm was provided after a restricted competitive tender process while two other contracts were not tendered for despite previous warnings from the Comptroller and Auditor General.

DDDA acting chief executive Paul Clegg and Mr Crawley said the decision not to award the contracts in such a way — which he accepted was not best practice — was taken as the State refused it permission after the resignation of its finance director in 2010 to hire a replacement given the embargo on public sector jobs.

Mr Crawley’s company also had contracts of €315,000 in 2012; €240,000 in 2011 and more than €100,000 the previous year.

The authority, which is to be subsumed into Dublin City Council (DCC), also disputed claims that the sale of a building on the capital’s Hanover Quay to U2 was conducted behind in the scenes in a “very secretive fashion” at way below its actual value.

In a bid to reassure the committee that no other “secret deals”, as members referred to them as, had taken place, the DDDA said the deal was the only transaction it has completed that was not put out to tender which caused Labour TD, Joe Costello further concern over the nature of the sale.

The building was one of two similar properties acquired from developer Harry Crosby under compulsory purchase orders in 2004 for €5.1m.

Despite protestations from Mr Crawley that having “looked into their hearts” the authority was satisfied it had got value for money from the sale, Mr Costello said it represented a very small sum and did not reflect the value of the site, as opposed to the property.

His comments were echoed by PAC chairman John McGuinness and Fine Gael TD Gabrielle McFadden who added that she felt extreme discomfort over what the committee had been told.

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