PAC to criticise slow progress on commercial rates revaluation

Third periodic report looking at issues including strategic communications unit

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will be highly critical of the revaluation of commercial rates businesses have to pay to local authorities in a report issued on Wednesday.

It is understood the powerful cross-party Dáil committee will take issue with the length of time it has taken for many local authorities to engage in a revaluation programme, with some not revaluing for more than a decade.

At a meeting of the committee in January the Comptroller and Auditor General said progress on a national review of rates was “slow”. The Valuation Office was tasked with conducting a national revaluation of commercial properties in 2001. But since then only 16 of the 31 councils have undergone reviews, the committee heard.

The national revaluation of rates is separate from local councillors’ power to increase or reduce commercial rates by a given percentage each year.

In its third periodic report which focuses on meetings held between January and May 2018, the PAC is also expected to be critical of the Chief State Solicitor’s office for its role in a deal that cost €3.89 million. The deal relates to a building in Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin, that was never occupied.

When asked for its role in the building the Chief State Solicitor cited legal professional privilege to the committee which prevented PAC from scrutinising the matter.

The State incurred costs of just over €1 million in the rental of the premises and other related costs and paid out €1.8 million in the settlement of legal proceedings that arose on the building. A further €1 million spent fitting out the leased building was written off.

PAC's report, published quarterly and highlighting its work, will also flag its disappointment at the poor treatment of the Dormant Accounts Fund, which was established to enable unclaimed funds from accounts in credit institutions to be used for economically or socially disadvantaged persons.

In particular, it will take issue with the fact that of the €143 million allocated to the fund, only €29 million has been dispersed. Additionally, it is expected to criticise the manner in which the fund has been moved around a variety of government departments.

Aside from commercial rates revaluation, local authorities will also come under scrutiny in the report for breaches of statutory duties in regard to the housing assistance payment (HAP). The Irish Times understands the PAC will say local authorities are in breach of a requirement to inspect accommodation within eight months of the first payment to a landlord.

In addition the PAC will also comment on the Taoiseach’s botched strategic communications unit.

The committee, chaired by Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming, will also report on its meetings with RTÉ and a swathe of government departments.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business