Watchdog criticises €21m spend on greyhound stadium in Limerick

The public spending watchdog has criticised the outlay on a €21m greyhound stadium in Limerick, which has significantly increased the debt owed by the state body that oversees greyhound racing.

A Comptroller and Auditor General report on the development of the Limerick Greyhound Stadium found that Bord na gCon’s borrowings have increased from approximately €11m in 2007 to twice that today. Over the five years since 2007 it has spent €28m on capital investment, €12.5m of which was funded by further bank borrowings.

A total of €21m was spent on the Limerick Stadium at Greenpark, which was completed in October 2010.

The development was green-lit without a capital project appraisal, an evaluation that assesses whether investments are justified on economic grounds and is required under government guidelines.

The report also documents how Bord na gCon purchased a site for the new stadium at Meelick in April 2005, at a cost of €1.02m with further expenditure of €935,000, before deciding on building the stadium elsewhere.

Plans to build the stadium at a site in Meelick were abandoned after it became apparent that direct access from the site to the adjacent national road would not be allowed — a key risk that was identified in a consultants’ report prior to purchasing the site that was never presented to the board.

Bord na gCon yesterday said it notes the publication of the Comptroller & Auditor General’s report on the Limerick Greyhound Stadium development, and it has already implemented the five recommendations included in the 45-page report.

“The Limerick project has delivered a state-of the-art facility which had helped to stabilise and consolidate key elements in the local greyhound industry. It has created a platform for increased racing attendances against the backdrop of improving economic conditions,” a Bord na gCon statement read.

The statement said the group has plans to return to an operating profit of €3.5m and a reduction of bank borrowings to a level appropriate to the board’s business model by the end of 2017.

Fianna Fáil’s agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív called on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to “expeditiously” bring forward legislation to regulate the greyhound board.

“There are serious, serious issues at Bord na gCon and this was just one of them,” said Mr Ó Cuív. “We can’t do anything about what has been done, but it can’t be ignored either.”

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