An investigation is underway in Dundalk Town Council after irregularities were uncovered in relation to rent collection in a specific location in Dundalk over a three year period.
Dundalk Town Council confirmed this week that a member of staff has been suspended and that an internal investigation is underway. The Gardai have also been notified.
It is believed that the total disputed rent arrears could be in the region of between €5,000 and €10,000. At least three cases of alleged irregularities are being investigated.
In a statment issued last week, the council said: “This is now the matter of an internal investigation and the matter has, as is the local authority’s statutory obligation been notified to the An Garda Síochána.
“The particular tenant identified as having issues with their account balance together with other tenants in the specific area of Dundalk have been met by senior members of the housing team and have been assured that they will not be adversely affected in anyway. “
The council say that the original case came to light after rent statements were sent to all tenants.
“The local authority did, on weeks, commencing 3rd and 10th February issue rent statements to all local authority tenants. On foot of the statements being issued a minimum number of queries were received and none were in regard to the accuracy of the account balance,” a statement issued by the council said.
They claim that it was on the back of follow up actions by their staff that an anomaly in a particular account was found.
However Cllr Declan Breatnach says that it was he who brought it to the attention of the council.
Cllr Breatnach says that when he became aware of the issue he “immediately” contacted the council 14th of February.
“I hope that is an isolated incident and from my own inquiries, I’ve identified two (cases) in the specific area,” Cllr Breathnach said.
“The issue for me is elderly or vulnerable people potentially being used by an individual but equally we don’t want to alarm anyone.
“The main issue I would have concern with is there any more…...I think it’s important if people are concerned they should make contact with the Town Hall.”
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat, Cllr Maria Doyle highlighted the fact that it is believed the Dundalk Town Council is owed €593,000 in arrears.
“Is this figure going to come down. It’s quite significant,” she asked.
She stated that she did not know how the investigation was being carried out but hoped it would be concluded quickly.
“I don’t know the exactly what way the internal investigation is being conducted and how it’s going to be concluded, and how it’s going to be communicated to us as councillors and to the public,” she said.
“I’d like it to be concluded fairly quickly and for the findings to be made known.”
Commenting on the issue, Cllr Tómas Sharkey stated: “This is the second investigation ongoing in Louth Local Authorities. We have yet to receive the findings of an Inquiry into house purchases from council housing staff.
“The public need to have confidence in public services. High taxes are being paid by hard pressed families.
“On a weekly basis families struggle to pay rent and bills. We all deserve to know that taxes and rents are collected fairly and spent wisely.
“Therefore we hope this investigation makes its findings quickly. We want to make sure that anybody affected by alleged irregularities see things put right swiftly.”
Dundalk Town Council tenants with queries or concerns about their rent al balances are asked to telephone 1890 202 303 or email rents@@droghedaboro.ie