Two senior executive officers with Louth County Council’s Housing section, who sold their houses to the council, recommended each other’s houses for purchase - documents have revealed.
In 2011 two houses bought by Louth County Council for the provision of social housing were purchased from members of their own staff.
A three bedroom bungalow at Tullagee, Knockbridge, was purchased for €137,500 from Mr Donal Clarke, while a house at house with an address of 32 Faneview, Blackrock, was purchased for €237,000 from senior executive officer Mr Willie Walsh.
Documents obtained by the Dundalk Democrat reveal that both Clarke and Walsh recommended the purchase of each other’s properties.
Mr Clarke recommended the purchase of Mr Walsh’s house as noted on Louth County Council Directors Order dated the 13th October 2010, while three months later a similar Director’s Order noted the Mr Walsh’s recommendation to purchase the property of Mr Clarke.
The Dundalk Democrat questioned Louth County Council regarding these recommendations, and put it to the council that this created a clear conflict of interest on the part of the executives.
Louth County Council stated: “There have been a number queries relating to the purchase of social housing units by Louth County Council. The county manager Ms. Philomena Poole directed that the Council’s internal auditor, Deloitte initiate an audit of the Council’s 2010 Social Housing Acquisition Programme . Following completion of the report the County Manager will report to the full council at its September meeting.”
“The county manager did report to Council at the September meeting as to the progress of the audit.
“Louth County Council will make no further comment of the matter until such time as the audit is complete, the final report on the matter is to hand following due process.”
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat Cllr Tomas Sharkey said: “We seem to have a situation where two senior staff members in the housing section of Louth County Council recommended the purchase of each others houses.
“I still have not received the report being prepared by the council’s auditors.
“However, I have asked council management for a number of documents including a list of all houses bought by Dundalk Town Council, the costing of energy saving works to the house in Tullagee, and a copy of the Clerk of Works inspection report of the Tullagee before its purchase.
“The public’s money was used to buy these two houses. The public work hard and pay their taxes. The least we can expect is some transparency,” Cllr Sharkey said.