DDDA head apologises for errors

 

The head of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has apologised for serious “errors of judgement” by the agency, particularly its controversial and costly involvement in a joint venture to buy the Irish Glass Bottle site.

Loretta Lambkin said it was clear that a number of decisions, including the purchase of the Ringsend site, were wrong and had exposed the authority to considerable costs.

Ms Lambkin, who was appointed acting chief executive last March, was speaking today at the start of an investigation into the deal by the Dail Public Accounts Committee.

The authority is being wound up after a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General last month disclosed serious shortcomings in the IGB deal in 2007. The site was bought for €431 million by a consortium that included the authority, but is now valued at a little over one-tenth of that, at €45 million.

The report has found the authority told the Department of the Environment that the value of the Irish Glass Bottle site was approximately €220 million at a time it was actively discussing an outlay of more than €400 million for it.

The authority did not conduct a detailed risk analysis of the deal, nor did it get the site independently valued before the purchase went ahead, according to the report.

Today, Ms Lambkin said the authority had instituted substantial procedural reforms to its planning, financial and management systems in recent years.

While attention focused on what had gone wrong at the authority, many aspects of the regeneration of the Docklands areas were successful, she said. Its achievements included the transformation of a huge part of Dublin city centre into a dynamic and thriving modern community, the creation of thousands of jobs and the building of some of the finest office buildings in the country.

“Whilst these successes have been somewhat overshadowed by poor investment decisions that were made in the past, they are an important part of the story of the Docklands,” she told the committee.

“Expensive lessons have been learnt and the Docklands Authority today is a very different organisation to what it was six years ago when the IGB site was purchased by the joint venture company, Becbay Ltd.

“It is clear that the authority’s involvement in the purchase of the site was a serious error of judgement that, instead of contributing to the wide Docklands project, has harmed and undermined the delivery of that project.”

She said the authority, which is being wound up over the next 18 months, had paid a heavy price but had been able to stabilise its financial position. Last year, it reported a surplus of €1.1 million compared to a deficit of almost €2 million in the previous year and €213 million in 2008.