I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise the issue of serious allegations regarding inappropriate local authority housing allocations in Dublin City Council and the urgent need for a proper inquiry into them. This serious matter has been brought to my attention by Independent councillors Mannix Flynn and Damian O'Farrell. There has been much huffing and puffing from the management in city hall and some councillors about it. Let us have the truth and the facts. If nothing is going on, then there is no problem and they have no concerns. I urge the Minister of State to get off the fence and demand action in this regard. Dublin City Council has 25,550 rented dwellings in it housing stock. If only a fraction have been given out inappropriately, then we need to see transparency and fairness. It is not fair to the genuine families on the housing waiting lists.
I am also here to ask whether corruption was involved. Did some people get houses on lower points than others with higher points? Were staff, management and politicians involved in this malpractice? What does the Minister of State say to those genuine families on the lists that were shafted?
This is what I want to do here tonight. Let us look at the facts and the evidence so far and then the Minister of State can decide. This is all relevant, with the Whistleblowers Protection Bill 2010 coming through the Houses of the Oireachtas. I want to stand up for the good and decent whistleblower public servants and the people most in need on the housing lists.
On November 2007, Dublin City Council management requested an internal audit to carry out an investigation into the possible misallocation under medical priority of a Dublin City Council dwelling. In mid-September 2008, the internal audit investigation began — ten months later. Of the 50 files examined, six applicants who had not been awarded overall medical priority by the Chief Medical Officer were placed on the medical priority list. Six properties were subsequently misallocated to these applicants by the city council on the basis that they had medical priority status. Subsequently, a further 39 files were examined. The audit found major control weaknesses or no system of control present. Many tenancy agreements could not be located at all. The procedures manual is partly out of date and not updated. Urgent action was deemed necessary.
At the request of Independent Councillors Damian O'Farrell and Mannix Flynn, the city manager presented reports to the city council on 7 December 2009 and 8 January 2010. The reports hinted at ongoing staff and HR issues, including grievance procedures, which prevented the city manager from clarifying matters further. This is a total red herring. There was no mention of the serious control weaknesses present, including no controls at all. These issues are senior management issues, not staff issues. Senior management has kept councillors completely in the dark of these failures.
The reports were rejected and branded a disgrace by Independent councillor Damian O'Farrell. Allegedly, there seems to be an issue with a member of staff whereas a separate independent report points the investigation in a different direction altogether, a direction that has not been investigated. Staff should not be scapegoated for failures of senior management. The only investigation that can get to the bottom of this is an external independent investigation.
Solicitors' letters have been issued to newspapers that have mentioned the matter. Members of senior management have not even acknowledged many e-mails from Independent councillors looking for clarification. Councillors Lacey, Breen and Ó Muirí, who are members of the audit committee, have not had the courtesy to even acknowledge a request by Independent councillor Damian O'Farrell for information.
The answering by senior management — who, incidentally, are public servants — of councillors' questions has shown a total disregard for elected officials and some received information not even in the ball park. Independents pushing this issue are Damian O'Farrell, Ciarán Perry and Mannix Flynn. Established party councillors are either in denial or running for cover.
The only way forward is an independent investigation. There is direct evidence of a complete indifference to the scheme of letting priorities and the Dublin City Council social housing policy, which has resulted in the exploitation of the scheme by certain individuals.