Property projects failures waste ‘hundreds of millions’

Property projects failures waste ‘hundreds of millions’

Thornton Hall: €50m was spent on prospective prison site.

The mismanagement of State property projects has led to the waste of “hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money”, says a letter sent to the leaders of all political parties.

The letter, submitted by the former managing valuer at the OPW, Allen Morgan, says the way in which State property is managed ignores the need to achieve value for money.

“In my career, I have witnessed tens, and arguably hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money wasted,” he writes, adding the situation is only reformable “by political decision”, and the adoption of best practices from abroad.

Mr Morgan, who retired in 2017, cites multiple examples of poor project management, such as the current saga surrounding the OPW’s procurement of a new Garda command HQ at Military Rd in Dublin.

That issue first materialised in 2013 after multiple opportunities to lock the current Garda HQ at Harcourt Square into a long-term lease were missed, something the valuer describes as akin to a “slow-motion car crash”.

He further cites examples of under-utilised State property investment, including €50m spent on Thornton Hall farm in north Dublin since 2005, originally for the construction of a new prison that never materialised.

Part of that project saw the construction of a 1.2km stretch of road, complete with street lighting and an underpass, which ends abruptly in a dirt path, at a cost of €5m.

“Bizarrely, every night, the Thornton Hall custodians inexplicably still insist on turning on the streetlights along the blocked purpose-built access road,” Mr Morgan writes, describing that fact as “publicly signposting a wasted €50m investment”.

He adds that, despite making two submissions to Oireachtas committees regarding his observations in 2021, those were inevitably “rerouted” back to the OPW for comment, which is still awaited.

“Most certainly, routing my submission … exclusively back through channels populated by civil servants who have serious questions to answer surrounding the administrative inertia that permits a continuation of this waste of public money, will achieve nothing meaningful,” he writes.

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