The State’s spending watchdog has said that the Irish Greyhound Board should have recognised that the development of a new stadium in Limerick that cost €21m might adversely affect its financial position.
Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy made his critical comments as chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board, Phil Meaney, addressed concerns yesterday that the project’s costs were not sufficiently assessed.
Appearing before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, Mr Meaney admitted that the project had damaged staff morale and affected its relationships with stakeholders going forward.
He conceded that it was clear there were issues of concern to the C&AG from the project’s conception in 2000 to its delivery in 2010.
Addressing cost overruns on the Limerick project which affected the financial position of the commercial state body, Mr McCarthy said that profits from the track operation and the tote were well below projected levels and were forecast to remain so in the near future.
The redevelopment or replacement of the existing Markets Field stadium at Limerick had been contemplated since around 2000, TDs were told.
Despite a €1.9m spend on a 16-acre site in Meelick, Limerick, in 2005, the land in the end could not be used due to planning difficulties.
The site was last valued at just €150,000 in 2012.
By 2008, the board bought an alternative site at Greenpark at a cost of €3.4m.
The eventual costs for the stadium at the Greenpark site came to some €21m.
The C& AG concluded that there had been “a lack of thoroughness” in how the project was assessed in 2008 by the board.
Revenue from the track was overstated by €2.9m at the time, it was noted.
Projected cash property disposals were also out of line with actual valuations.
Labour TD Joe Costello questioned how a decision was made to purchase the original site in Meelick that was not usable.
“How could such big decisions be made and then it’s found out subsequently that it couldn’t be used for the purpose intended.
“It wasn’t a good decision, it was an atrocious decision.
“You cannot blame it all on the previous board and the previous executive and just wash our hands and ride off into the sunset after taxpayers’ money has been wasted.
“There has been blatant negligence,” Mr Costello added.
Mr Meaney told PAC members that the Irish Greyhound Board accepted the findings of the C & AG Report and had implemented the recommendations contained within it.
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