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Parliamentary Questions – 1st June 2017

Below are questions asked in the Oireachtas, relating to Caranua and other areas relevant to survivors

State Bodies Expenditure

Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the nature, details and value of all accommodation contracts entered into between the OPW and Caranua; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the agreement between the OPW and Caranua on the renting of office space; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the agreement between the OPW and Caranua on the charging of rent for the use of office space; the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 Deputy Catherine Connolly: Will the Minister clarify the arrangement between the Office of Public Works and Caranua? What contract, if any, has been entered into? What are its details and value? The Minister is fully aware of the controversy about Caranua taking on a rent obligation that it did not have before. It was set up in January 2013 and did not pay rent until recently. Will the Minister clarify the position?

 Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 24 and 41 together.

The Commissioners of Public Works advise that the agreement in place with Caranua for its current accommodation in Frederick Court, Dublin 1, is an administrative arrangement by way of a simple exchange of letters between them and Caranua. It details a rent contribution of €106,000 per annum, with a commencement date of 1 June 2016.

As the lease on the Frederick Court building expired in 2016, the Commissioners of Public Works are disposing of the property and in discussions with Caranua on its future accommodation needs. It has offered it space in newly leased premises off Talbot Street, Dublin 1. This was another option for Caranua, given that it had carried out its own research to find alternative accommodation. It confirmed its acceptance of this space to the commissioners and the arrangement is, again, by way of an exchange of letters. The due proportion of rent to be paid by Caranua amounts to €188,589.55, plus VAT, per annum. The increased rent arises from the provision of a larger area of accommodation for Caranua.

 Deputy Catherine Connolly: Will the Minister clarify why Caranua will have to pay rent on moving into the leased premises associated with the Office of Public Works, OPW? Will he clarify that the OPW is leasing the existing building? What was it paying for it? Caranua was in it for three years and one month without ever paying rent. What has changed that now obliges it to pay rent? Furthermore, is the Talbot Street premises the one identified a number of years ago that had been refurbished in part with funds from the Caranua funds and into which Caranua did not move at the time?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: The one question I cannot answer for the Deputy concerns the arrangement involving the OPW for the current building. I do not have the information required but will find it for her.

On the other question the Deputy asked me, the Department of Education and Skills replied to a parliamentary question on 9 May 2017 addressing the responsibilities of Caranua as an independent statutory body and, in particular, the procurement of its accommodation and the meeting of related expenses. The reply made it clear that Caranua was an independent statutory body and, therefore, would be expected to procure its own accommodation and meet related expenses. Section 30 of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 provides that all expenses incurred by Caranua under the Act shall, subject to the approval of the board, be charged to an investment account to the benefit of Caranua. That is why it is expected to meet its own accommodation needs and pay the rent therefor.

On the Deputy’s question on the role of the OPW, its remit is to provide accommodation for central government bodies. There are several agencies outside that remit that recoup rent to the OPW for space provided for them. In many cases, this relates back to the legislation under which an agency was established in that there was provision made for the agency to fund its own property requirements.

On the question the Deputy asked me about the accommodation on Talbot Street, I will find the information make it available to her.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: I appreciate that the Minister is going to clarify that aspect. The question I am asking which he is ignoring, although perhaps not deliberately, concerns the fact that we really have gone around in circles. Other Members have tabled questions similar to mine such is the concern about Caranua moving into rented premises. The figure we were given was €272,000, to include VAT, year after year. Why is the legislation and the specific section the Minister mentioned now being cited when it was not used since establishment in March 2013? The organisation was never charged rent. What has changed such that it is now being charged rent, particularly when the fund is dwindling? Second, no business case has ever been made, even though the Department of Education and Skills asked for one. Third, the number of applicants dwindled to a couple of hundred in 2016. Why, therefore, does Caranua need bigger accommodation?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I am not ignoring the Deputy’s question, nor am I attempting to do so. She asked me about the rental agreement between Caranua and the Commissioners of Public Works. I have provided for her all of the information available. On why Caranua is being asked to pay rent, this is a matter between the board of Caranua and the OPW. If the latter is providing accommodation for agencies that are not central government Departments, there is an expectation that rent will be paid. I will determine whether I can, through the OPW, find the answers to the other questions the Deputy put to me. I am sure I will and I will make the information available to her. I have, however, answered the question she put to me.