herald

Monday 22 December 2014

We pay €900k on luxury hotels for OPW staff

THESE are some of the luxury hotels around the world where Office of Public Works (OPW) officials stayed at our expense.

The OPW has spent almost €900,000 since 2007 sending employees all over the globe.

Many of the trips involved journeys to China, where uniforms for public sector staff are manufactured.

Factory inspections led to stays in luxury hotels like Shangri-La in Changchun and Guo Ji Yi Yua in Beijing.

The Shangri-La, a stunning hotel with marble interiors in the heart of Changchun, cost €412.48, while the bill in Beijing came to €153.59.

Another stay in a five-star Shangri-La hotel -- this time in Pudong, Shanghai, in 2010 -- cost €1,149.58 as OPW staff inspected factories in the region.

Two flights connected with the visit came to €5,262.30.



Swish

The total amount spent by the OPW in the period was €872,511.22, the figures, sourced in a Freedom of Information request, found.

Two staff members flew to New York last year on flights costing €1,135.34 apiece and stayed in the city's swish Morgans Hotel on Madison Avenue, with the accommodation bill coming to €1,952.

Another trip involved an official travelling to Gdansk and staying in the Mercure Hevelius Hotel in the city.

More modest hotels were also chosen on several occasions, with one worker staying in a Holiday Inn in New York in 2010 for €71.58.

An OPW spokeswoman said its policy determines that the standard of hotel to be used by staff should be three or four star, unless the officer is required to stay in a particular hotel for business reasons.

When it comes to flights, prior written approval of a management advisory committee member is required before the booking is made, the OPW spokeswoman added.

The OPW adheres to Department of Finance foreign travel policy guidelines.

"Economy class fares are primarily used unless there is a restricted executive class fare available that is more cost-effective," she said. The National Procurement Service (NPS), part of the OPW, procures uniforms for An Garda Siochana, the Defence Forces and Irish Prison Service.

In many cases, NPS officials carry out factory inspections to ensure that the "garments are manufactured in accordance with specifications, and that working conditions comply with obligations set out in the contract", the spokeswoman said. Last year, OPW staff went to Romania and also travelled to Cologne, Macedonia and Northern Ireland.

Foreign travel costs billed to the OPW by the minister's office went from a high of €36,465.26 in 2007 to €481.96 up to June last year.

comurphy@herald.ie

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