Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Special report of the Sale of State Lands at Glen Ding Co.Wicklow

Report issued 8 January 1999

Sale of State Lands at Glen Ding Co. Wicklow

Conclusions

1. The papers reviewed during the course of the examination indicate that the civil servants involved in the sale process made judgments on the basis of the information and advice available at the time and that Ministers acted at all times in accordance with Departmental advice.

2. From a purely business point of view the Department could be considered to have acted in a way that ensured that it obtained a good price for the property, viz.

  • The Department tried to obtain planning permission to maximise the value of the land. When it was professionally advised that getting such permission would be difficult the Department prudently insisted that the land be sold without any conditions relating to planning permission. The wisdom of that decision has been borne out by An Bord Pleanála’s refusal in September 1998 of the purchaser’s planning application to extract sand and gravel from the property.
  • The Department regarded Roadstone as the prime potential purchaser as they were a well established large company who
    • needed the property to facilitate ongoing operations in the area
    • had best access to the property
    • and conducted negotiations with the company until it got an offer which was acceptable from the Department’s and its adviser’s point of view.

3. The Department had a duty to act in an equitable manner even though it is unlikely that the Roadstone offer would have been bettered. The attraction of concluding the sale at what was considered a good price outweighed the imperative to act evenhandedly which is a basic principle when the State is doing business. In this regard, in my opinion, the Department did not conduct the sale in an appropriate manner. Specifically

  • Bearing in mind the known marketability of the property it was incumbent on the Department to ensure that all those who had expressed an interest should have been afforded the opportunity of making an offer regardless of the way the sale was handled, e.g. open public tenders, auction or private treaty.
  • At a minimum it should have been obvious that adjoining landowners in the sand and gravel business would have been potential purchasers.

4. Mr. Johnston’s bid for the property was considered before the sale to Roadstone was formally concluded and was not successful because it was lower than Roadstone’s offer. Even though Mr. Johnston indicated that his offer was his ‘best shot’ it must be seen in the context of

  • the series of meetings and correspondence with Roadstone which allowed that firm to vary its offers progressively
  • the fact that, to all intents and purposes, the sale had been agreed with Roadstone (subject only to CRH main board approval) and approved by the Minister on 11 December 1990, two days before the meeting with Mr Johnston at which he tabled his offers.

5. Considering the size of the property and the sand and gravel reserves it would have been prudent for the Department to have obtained a second opinion or to have sought advice from the Valuation Office in regard to the value of the property.

6. The Department might also have considered appointing selling agents, estate agents or auctioneers to handle the sale of the property in order to use their expertise to maximise the return from the sale.

7. In the case of the appointment of consultants there is no evidence that other consultancy firms were considered. There is also no evidence that any possible question of potential conflicts of interest was considered at the time the consultants were appointed.

For further information about the report contents, please contact:

Joe Meade

Tel: +353 1 679 3122

Fax: +353 1 679 3288

e-mail: Joe_Meade@audgen.irlgov.ie

Publication Details

Special Report : Sale of State Lands at Glen Ding Co.Wicklow

ISBN 0-7076-6708-9

Price ?5

Government Publications Sales Office

Sun Alliance House

Molesworth Street

Dublin 2

Tel: +353 1 661 3111

Fax: +353 1 475 2760


The contents of this page were last updated on 26/09/03