Talks to resolve overpayment of Health office lease taking ‘far too long’, PAC hears

Mis-measurement by OPW of new floor space expected to result in €10m over-payment

Talks aimed at seeking a new deal on a lease for the office building that houses the Department of Health are going on "far too long" members of the Dáil's spending watchdog have claimed.

A mis-measurement by the Office of Public Works (OPW) of the floor space of Miesian Plaza on Dublin’s Baggot Street is expected to result in an over-payment of €10 million during the lifetime of the lease.

In October 2018 the OPW said it was negotiating with the owner of the premises in an attempt to recalibrate the floor space measurements that the lease is based on.

A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report in May said the committee "remains concerned that the OPW will not succeed in preventing taxpayers being exposed for an additional €10 million that is a direct result of a fundamental error by OPW."


It also said it was unsatisfied that “after two years of negotiations with the landlord that no substantial developments have taken place.”

OPW chairman Maurice Buckley sent an update to the PAC on October 26th saying that the most recent meeting with the landlord took place at the end of September.

He said there was “constructive discussion around possible solutions towards resolution of the measurement issue”.

Mr Buckley said the talks are at a “sensitive stage” and “while progress has been made, further discussions will be necessary to bring the matter to a conclusion.”

He said: “Both the OPW and the landlord are committed to continuing this process with a view to establishing if a solution that is acceptable to both parties can be reached.”

At a PAC meeting on Thursday Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said: "It's just bizarre that this is still going on in terms of the OPW on behalf of taxpayers substantially overpaying for a property. It appears to me that this process has gone on far, far too long."

He said another update is expected from the OPW by January 12th and “in my view they should have this matter resolved by then – pure and simple.”

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the OPW should appear before the PAC early in the New Year.

On the talks over Miesian Plaza she said: “there has been nothing but meetings but there has been little outcome from it.”

She added: “It’s very clear that we’re not going to let this go and it will be an issue that we’ll want to deal with when they come [THE OPW]in in the new year.

“We will want an update at that stage if it’s not already concluded because it has gone for far too long.”

PAC chairman Brian Stanley said: "The OPW is caught in a situation where they're appealing for goodwill because a contract is a contract."

He added that he wished them luck and hoped they will be successful in getting a new deal with the landlord.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times