Local Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness has defended his role in the re-furnishing of a Government office in 2007, saying that he was not aware of the price of the work at the time, and it was not his responsibility.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, some of which were published in yesterday’s Irish Independent, reveal that €250,000 was spent revamping the building before the then junior minister took up residence. The PAC chairman insists he had no say regarding the costs or choice of the furniture.
“I had nothing to do with the cost of it,” he said.
“These decisions were not my responsibility; they were someone else’s. It is not the job of the minister to purchase these things.”
Mr McGuinness conceded that there was ‘an extravagance’ in the purchases made, but at the time he was not aware of the price of the work done. Extra room had to be made for him in the building because of then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s decision to appoint an additional junior minister after the 2007 General Election.
According to the Irish Independent, the cost of the work included items such as: €3,340 on two black leather chairs and a round table; ‘tub chairs’ cost €1,111 each before VAT; €22,203 on 10 chairs, a double pedestal cherry desk, a computer side desk and a boardroom table.
A significant portion of the sum was spent on a shower room for the head civil servant, secretary general Sean Gorman. Almost €58,000 was spent on the room, including €2,300 on a vanity unit.
In a follow-up story on the front page of today’s Irish Independent, the newspaper details an email exchange between a civil servant and an architect firm regarding the minister’s new toilet. The civil servant enquires as to what sanitary materials are suitable for the toilet, while the architect advises against non-degradeable papers and lower-grade toilet rolls.
While the newspaper reports that Mr McGuinness was “only allowed to use luxury toilet rolls...”, the email exchange reveals that office staff were merely advised to use a certain higher grade of toilet paper due to the new Saniflo system. Saniflo’s Irish reps confirmed that “any type of degradable toilet tissue” may be used, and that “the main restriction is on the use of ‘wipes’ and multi-ply facial tissues and hankies.”
In an seemingly tongue-in-cheek comment, the sender also advises that “lower grade toilet tissues (the old Oifig an tSolathair variety comes to mind) should be avoided.” Oifig an tSolathair roughly translates to ‘supply/stationery store’.