Empty premises: Over €2m spent on lease
MORE THAN €2 million has been spent by the Department of Justice and Equality on leasing a building on Dublin’s Wolfe Tone Street – which it has never been able to use.
The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report noted the full “prospective cost” of the premises could amount to €3.2 million in lease payments over 10 years,
plus a further €1 million in fit-out costs.
The premises was to house the Probation Service’s Bridge Project, aimed at reintegrating male offenders into the community.
The project has operated in the Dublin 1 area for 15 years and was based on Parnell Street.
In 2008 the Probation Service leased the premises on Wolfe Tone Street under a lease negotiated by the Chief State Solicitor’s office.
The State solicitor said it relied on an architect’s opinion that the building was in planning compliance for the Probation Service’s intended use.
The opinion was delivered by an architect employed by the building’s owner. The Chief State Solicitor’s office said this approach was in keeping with Law Society guidance.
However, the premises was part of an otherwise residential complex and local opposition to the project led to complaints to Dublin City Council.
The council investigated the issue and determined new planning permission would be required before any service could operate there.
The Comptroller and Auditor General recommended the Chief State Solicitor’s office “review its risk assessment in relation to planning compliance on property acquisitions”.
But the office disagreed. It responded that it had followed Law Society of Ireland guidance and directions and it was a matter for the Law Society to review its standards and make any necessary changes.
It also said calculating the risk of objections from local people to building uses was not a legal issue.
In 2012 the Bridge Project was moved to alternative rented premises in nearby areas.
In April 2012 the department was informed that ownership of the building was in the hands of receivers, who required confirmation that the department would make the payments as detailed in the lease.