OPW’s failures in property management – overpaying for properties

A former employee of the Office of Public Works (OPW) will discuss in a private session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that they have shown to have immense failures in the property management unit.

The main purpose of the OPW is to support the implementation of policy. The Office of Public Works also advises the Minister and the Minister of State in property. This property includes heritage properties and flood risk management.

The former employee worked in the property management unit. The previous employee revealed that the Office of Public Works wrote numerous reports that showed the shortcomings and failures in the way that the OPW deals with property.

The OPW has been under recent pressures due to the move of the Department of Health headquarters onto Baggot Street. According to the PAC, the move led to an overpayment of €21 million. The former employee will assess on the value of money in the OPW’s total property and report to the PAC related to the overspending of OPW. According to the employees report the overspending of a single session exemplifies the process failures of OPW that he had witness numerous times in his career with the Office of Public Works.

The OPW’s statement to refute these claims was “at all times seeks to ensure value for money outcomes in the development of property solutions to address the requirements for the delivery of public services”.Recommendations from the employees 2017 report were said to have been enacted by the OPW. Lastly the OPW claimed they are engaged with the staff members in question and continue to engage with the PAC addressing recent concerns raised.

The report showed that there were almost 100 cases of concern solely in 2017. Specifically, the employees report denoted that “the existence and responsibility for poor value for money outcomes remained problematic and largely unaccountable”.

Arguments from the witness discussed that the OPW operates in a budget driven culture. Thus, they are unable to operate effectively when purchasing properties in the private sector. The difference in private and public sector is that the private property sector strives to maximize returns, but the State views property as a required burden for housing civil servants and gardaí.

Ultimately, the former employee of the OPW argues that a commercial entity should be created to manage the States property. However, the State fails to properly manage the public property. Such an organization is necessary to protect the State’s interests.

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