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The National Transport Authority (NTA) has spent roughly €966,000 renting offices from WeWork at Charlemont Exchange since April 2019, says a spokesperson for the NTA.
Extra space was needed, says the spokesperson, as the semi-state company took on more functions, projects, and schemes such as BusConnects. That meant more staff.
The rented offices include an open plan area, a meeting room, and two individual offices, a spokesperson for the NTA said on 6 November via email.
Since March 2020, the offices have only been partially used by NTA staff because of Covid-19, says an NTA spokesperson.
The NTA board agreed to sign another lease with the shared workspace company at its September meeting.
Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has questioned whether it’s good value.
“That’s obviously a considerable amount of money and it doesn’t seem the most efficient,” said a spokesperson for Carthy.
A spokesperson for the NTA said: “It was the best overall option available from the point of view of proximity to other NTA colleagues, capacity, suitability and cost.”
The NTA rents, or has “lease obligations”, for five offices in the city centre, according to its 2019 annual report.
For three of those – another lease is a more complicated set-up – the rent per staff member a year working there ranges from €3,150 per staff member to €6,290 per staff member, to €7,700 per staff member.
Its offices on Charlemont Street cost €85,000 a year, says its 2019 annual report.
It has 27 staff members there, says the NTA spokesperson.
Its Harcourt Lane HQ is rented from the Office of Public Works (OPW) and cost €900,000 in 2019.
It has 143 staff members there, says a spokesperson for the NTA.
Its two floors of offices at the Harcourt Centre on Harcourt Road cost roughly €656,000, according to its 2019 annual report.
That’s for 85 staff members, said the NTA spokesperson.
Working out how much the NTA is paying per staff member for the WeWork offices is tricky.
The WeWork offices at Charlemont Exchange cost the NTA roughly €395,000 for 12 months from April 2019, its annual report says.
There, 35 staff members and contractors work, said the NTA spokesperson, this week. That would mean a cost of €11,250 per staff member for that year.
A spokesperson for the NTA, though, said that it had spent roughly €966,000 on rent for the WeWork offices since April 2019.
Calculated out, that suggests that the NTA spent about €571,000 from April 2020 to present. But it’s unclear if that’s the case, or also if the office space was increased, say, or a lease paid in advance.
A spokesperson for the NTA hasn’t responded to queries about this yet, sent on Tuesday.
There was a 62 percent increase in NTA spending on its offices – including rent, repairs, cleaning, and electricity – in 2019 compared to 2018. (It went up roughly from €1 million, from €1.7 million to 2.8 million.)
In the 2019 report, Fred Barry, the NTA chairperson, notes that the authority has started the “process of remedying historical staffing shortages,” and the strengthening of its senior management team which “were both key concerns for the Board”.
The number of staff increased from 239 to 353 between 2018 and 2019. Fifteen more staff have been hired by the NTA so far in 2020, according to the NTA spokesperson.
In October 2019, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy asked why the NTA was subletting out an office at Fitzwilliam Square for €80,000 a year, which was less than it was paying to rent it at €170,000.
That’s a legacy issue, said Philip L’Estrange, director of finance and corporate services at the NTA, at the committee hearing.
The NTA absorbed a taxi regulatory body that had rented the offices, moved its staff out to save money, and sublet it as it was tied into the lease.
“Overall, the public sector still made savings,” he said.
A spokesperson for Murphy last Friday also highlighted the rent increases for the NTA’s headquarters at Harcourt Lane.
“The Authority paid €900,000 in 2018 compared to €500,000 in 2017 in respect of this office accommodation,” they said, by email.
Also “there is no formal lease in place”, said the spokesperson.