State solicitor’s office facing criticism over botched deal

A powerful cross-party Dáil committee will accuse the Chief State Solicitor’s Office of costing the taxpayer at least €4m due to a botched building deal in a report set to be published tomorrow.

The criticism will be levelled at the State legal experts by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in a quarterly report which will also hit out at RTÉ finances and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s now scrapped strategic communications unit.

The report is published by the PAC every three months to provide an overview of its investigations and to put forward recommendations on how issues can be resolved.

And while the document will make no mention of the cervical cancer test scandal, as this occurred after the March to May scope of the current report, it will make serious criticisms of other State areas.

It is understood among the main points of concern raised in the report, which will be signed off on by PAC members this evening before being published tomorrow morning, will be the Chief State Solicitor’s Office’s role in a botched building development for the probation service.

In a previous meeting with the PAC, the Department of Justice confirmed that the situation cost the probation service, and as a result the taxpayer, at least €4m due to questionable advice from the State legal experts.

And, while the Chief State Solicitor’s Office has defended its involvement in what happened, the PAC report is expected to take the rare step tomorrow of formally criticising the body for its failure to ensure its advice would protect taxpayers’ money.

The PAC report will also make a series of recommendations about RTÉ’s finances.

They will relate to issues including the loss of revenue due to the failure to ensure all TV licence fee bills are paid — an issue which is ultimately the responsibility of the Department of Communications — and the ongoing controversy surrounding the payment of some high-profile presenters through companies instead of via staff salaries.

The committee’s report is expected to also draw a series of conclusions about Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s now scrapped strategic communications unit, including recommendations about the need to guard against the use of Government money for party PR initiatives.

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