Significant questions remain over Horse Sport Ireland’s proposed new multi-million euro HQ - Mairéad Farrell TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure & Reform, Mairéad Farrell TD, has called upon Minister Charlie McConalogue to publish his Department’s report and the legal opinion on whether Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) can directly award a public contract worth millions without a competitive tender process.
This contract is for the construction of a new HQ in Greenogue. Unconfirmed reports have placed the cost as high as €21 million.
The problem relates to the planning permission and how that complies with EU procurement law, and a decision by South Dublin County Council is expected today.
Teachta Farrell stated:
"Since January the Minister and his officials have stated publicly on three separate occasions that the proposal was being thoroughly investigated.
"In May we were told ‘the department is examining the matter at present to ensure that HSI has satisfied itself that the transaction proposed is consistent with public procurement rules’.
"This was also being done to ensure that an organisation like HSI, which is dependent on grants and funding from the Irish taxpayer, can demonstrate an effective use of funds and an 'avoidance of waste and extravagance'.
"Now the planning decision is just a week away and we’ve still heard nothing from the Minister and his department.
"There are still so many unanswered questions in relation to HSI’s move. Is spending up to €21 million on a new HQ in Greenogue good value for money, given the planning issues and constraints with the site?
"If the HQ is being leased and will need to be returned after the expiration of the lease, this seems like a major unnecessary cost for the taxpayer.
"When we contrast this with the alternative proposal to use Punchestown, a 650 acre equestrian property, with a full-size international grade cross-country course, a convention centre and an Olympic size indoor arena, all of which was offered free to HSI and which will remain in the ownership of equestrian bodies, this move seems all the more peculiar?
"Moreover, why has this process been carried out in such an opaque fashion. Indecon’s 2017 report did flag that HSI’s board needed to improve its approach to corporate governance, but made no mention of the need for a new HQ to achieve its strategic objectives'.
‘A huge amount of procurement spending during the pandemic was allowed to go outside normal competitive procedures. This could be justified on the basis of an emergency.
"However, HIS’s constructing of a new HQ does not meet that standard. So, if it is to directly award a contract speculated to be around €21 million, we have to be sure that this is line with Irish and EU procurement law, that its carried out in a transparent fashion, and that it represents good value for money for the taxpayer.
"It’s time Minister McConalogue came out from behind the curtain and addressed these concerns."