‘Weak’ systems in place when Louth council bought houses from its staff
Two senior staff members sold houses to council as part of social housing scheme
Louth County Council spent more than €446,000 on two properties, including refurbishments. Both had been in the private ownership of council staff. Photograph: David Sleator.
The Louth county manager has conceded “weak” systems were in place when Louth County Council bought two houses from senior members of the council’s own staff.
Philomena Poole was addressing councillors yesterday as she delivered her report about the purchase of the houses in 2010.
The council spent more than €446,000 on the properties, including refurbishments. Both had been in the private ownership of council staff.
The two staff members recently returned to work having been suspended as part of an internal grievance and disciplinary process.
An investigation was carried out by the council’s internal auditors Deloitte, which produced a list of recommendations that include addressing the issue of local authority staff with conflicts of interest.
In her report, Ms Poole said Deloitte’s general findings “were critical of Louth County Council procedures” in relation to the purchase of 18 properties, including the two in question, by the council in 2010 as part of the Social Housing Investment Programme.
Ms Poole, who took up her position in Louth last year, insisted that all the recommendations contained in the Deloitte report “will be fully implemented”.
She told councillors the investigation “was very thorough” and insisted the situation would not arise again. “I have every confidence the staff in housing will be able to rise to the challenge.”
Sinn Féin Cllr Thomas Sharkey, who first raised the issue, said he wanted a second enquiry.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Frank Maher said the rationale behind the purchases needed to be examined in detail. “Unless we learn from what happened and address the issues, [the report] will lose some of its impact.”
Ms Poole was addressing the council for the last time, as she has been appointed Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county manager.