The Public Accounts Committee has been called upon to further examine findings of an internal Office of Public Works (OPW) report revealing that hundreds of millions of euros could be saved by the State through either building or buying office units rather than renting.
So says the chair Brian Stanley – a Sinn Fein TD from Laois as the report also highlighted the ‘upward trend in the level of rental costs’ in Dublin.
Deputy Stanley’s comments follow the publication of an internal report by the OPW which revealed that it was almost 40% more expensive to rent compared to purchasing property and concludes that renting offices is not achieving value for money.
Deputy Stanley said: “The findings of the OPW’s report are alarming in the context of the State achieving value for money.
“As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, I will be recommending that the committee examine this matter further.
“The internal review looked at a sample of just five buildings which the OPW is currently renting and concluded that there would be total savings of €216m for the State if we built or bought those buildings.
“Of course, there is a major upfront cost to the State with regards to either purchasing or building these office units. However, what we need to see is an incremental movement towards ownership and away from leasing.
“Currently, 39% of the State’s property portfolio is rented or leased, we need to reduce that total figure.
“Long-term leasing does not make financial sense, the OPW’s examination found that it can cost up to 40% more to rent long-term compared with building or buying office space.
“Looking at just one of the buildings reviewed by the report, the OPW states that over a life-time lease, we are projected to spend €102m to rent the building, when it could be purchased for just €63m – a 38% saving.
“I would also encourage the OPW to consider the way our economy is evolving and our different demands for office space.
“There is a growing trend towards people working-from-home and also civil servants opting to move to areas outside of Dublin.
“These trends should offer the OPW opportunities to build or purchase more affordable office space outside of Dublin. We should be looking to decentralise more of our office space.
“Publicly owned land is available in Laois / Offaly to build office accommodation on. One OPW owned site in Portlaoise has been lying vacant for over a decade, despite the fact that it was purchased at the cost of €1M to decentralise Government Departments.
“The OPW are due to appear before the Public Accounts Committee on the 15th of December and we will be seeking additional information in advance of that session.”