€23m dog stadium project to be probed

A special investigation into the Irish Greyhound Board’s development of its flagship €23m stadium in Limerick looks imminent.

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy, has said he expects his review of the company’s 2012 accounts to be signed off within weeks.

He has requested detailed responses from the board in relation to concerns raised about the Limerick development.

He will wait until those are received before confirming the investigation, but he indicated to the Public Accounts Committee that he expects to open a formal inquiry at that stage.

The PAC had called the IGB before it to discuss its precarious financial position and the debt accumulated because of problems in the development of the Limerick stadium.

The company’s chief executive, Adrian Neilan, said he wanted to deliver a clear message that despite ongoing negotiations with AIB regarding a revised loan schedule, the board was in control of its finances and its future.

PAC member Derek Nolan said it appeared the Limerick project had “gone from one disaster to another disaster” and a special investigation would be required.

He said the IGB had lost out on millions of euro of benefits it could have got from reduced construction prices because it had left itself exposed in a controversial “gentleman’s agreement” with the company that sold it the Greenpark site, Limerick Racecourse Company. Fine Gael TD Simon Harris said the board had ignored advice of its engineers and solicitors six months before the contract to buy the Limerick site was signed.

Mr Neilan said the solicitors and engineers had most likely been misinformed about the sale conditions when they offered advice. He said the board knew the terms of the unwritten €2.4m deal were never going to be a legal requirement that could be built into a contract.

PAC chairman John McGuinness said that in Jun 2008, Mr Neilan had been brought before the committee to answer for the company’s failure to follow proper procedures in relation to the redevelopment of Shelbourne Park.

He said the issues uncovered since had given rise to “quite shocking” reports of various additional deals involving the board. Mr McGuinness said the PAC members were unlikely to be satisfied with the responses the company’s representatives had provided to the meeting. He wanted to send out the message that the committee was not finished with its inquiries in relation to the IGB.

He said the committee had a detailed list of questions which it did not have time to deal with. These will be sent to the IGB and he said he wants comprehensive responses.

IGB chairman Phil Meaney said he would welcome the C&AG scrutiny. He said his desire was “at the end of the year that Limerick [track issues] was off the radar altogether”.

Mr Meaney said criticism of the IGB had been propagated by small, unrepresentative groups that had been contacting the PAC, and by erroneous newspaper reports which he said he was taking legal action to address.

€600k award

More than €600,000 worth of contracts were awarded by the IGB in 2011 without following proper spending rules.

The details were uncovered by the Comptroller and Auditor General and revealed to the PAC yesterday.

The C&AG, Seamus McCarthy, said his office had sampled deals entered into by the IGB in 2011 and discovered 11 contracts that were not procured properly.

IGB chief Adrian Neilan provided details of the arrangements at the request of the PAC. They included €64,000 paid to company solicitors Holmes O’Malley Sexton, €200,000 for the firm that manages its pensions, and services to supply fuel cards for staff.

Other contracts involved marketing costs and laboratory services. Mr Neilan said that since the C&AG had highlighted the problems to the company in February, it had hired a procurement officer to help the company to comply with the rules.

The contracts were in addition to matters related to the Limerick track development, which Mr McCarthy said would be part of the soon to be completed 2012 audit.


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