The disclosures came at a public accounts committee hearing yesterday, amid continuing concerns the taxpayer needlessly lost out when the plane was sold in January 2015.
Last year, a Comptroller and Auditor General report noted that despite the air corps pricing the 14-seater Gulfstream IV jet at €750,000 and related spare parts at €405,000, the jet and equipment were sold in January 2015 for €418,000 and €53,000, respectively.
The sale to US company Journey Aviation came after concerns over the age of the plane, which had travelled 21,000km since becoming operational in 1992. It was grounded in 2014.
Despite widespread criticism of the cut-price sale and the fact no clear attempt was apparently made to seek a wide range of other offers, the Department of Defence strongly insisted at the time that it obtained the best deal possible due to the age, repairs required, and condition of the plane.
However, addressing the deal during a four-hour PAC meeting with the department’s general secretary, Maurice Quinn, Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane said the same plane is now insured by Journey Aviation for $5m and is being used by high-level executives to travel the globe.
He said: “I don’t want to hear about extenuating circumstances, Journey Aviation did a full analysis of costs because it was prudent of them to do so. Did we?
“This is the same plane. It is in use. On November 23, it flew from Allentown [in Pennsylvania] to New York. On November 28, it flew from New York to Paris. On December 3, it flew from New York to Barbados.
“The copy of the insurance cert has it insured at a value of $5m. That, for me, is a far cry from the same jet you said was lying in a hanger [when it was sold in January 2015],” said Mr Cullinane.
Responding to the revelation and similar concerns raised by Labour’s Alan Kelly and Independent Catherine Connolly, Mr Quinn said the insurance figure did not fully take account of the “emergency” situation facing the government at the time of the jet’s sale.
Under questioning, he said the department was told in July 2014 it needed to spend upwards of €1.4m to maintain and repair the jet and that it was expected an overhaul of its engines by 2018/19 would cost a further €2.5m.
Reacting to the insurance rate, Fine Gael’s Noel Rock said in his view the State made money by selling the plane for such a low cost because it avoided higher maintenance expenditure.
He described the $5m figure as “sensationalist” and said it included additional costs such as the loss of the plane.
Mr Quinn said he believes the plane’s condition has improved substantially since it was sold two years ago due to investment from Journey Aviation.
However, he said it was “speculative” whether the government would have made money if it had repaired the plane before selling it, when asked by Fianna Fáil’s Bobby Aylward.