The Office of Public Works has failed to meet a European Union (EU) March 2016 deadline and has spent €6m over budget, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General has said.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy presented his report to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday.

The Office of Public Works had estimated that pilot flood management projects would cost €3.5m, but the pilots ended up costing €9.1m. PAC chair Seán Fleming said the figure made for a “shocking start to the new PAC”.

Of the nine pilot projects, the overspend included an overspend on the River Lee project, which was estimated to cost €1.048m but ended up costing €2.19m.

Clare McGrath, chair of the Office of Public Works, said that there had been “considerable learning from the surveys between various teams”.

McGrath told the committee that the pilots themselves were not about delivering, but about learning how to deliver the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM), and that the Office of Public Works were “well within” that budget, which is now set at €30m.

No service agreement

Under the European Union’s Flood Directive, member states were required to publish flood risk management plans by March 2016. However, McGrath said it would be the end of this year before it is completed, nine months after the deadline. McGrath also said that whether that deadline will be met will “depend on what comes in at public consultation, which is due to be rolled out from tomorrow”.

It was also highlighted at the meeting that the top interdepartmental group tasked with flood management had not met at all between 2009 and 2015.

Of the nine pilot projects, some were given to local authorities, while others were under the full responsibility of the Office of Public Works.

The meeting also highlighted that of the pilots given to local authorities, there was no service level agreement before the allocation of funding.

As part of the EU directive, flood risk management plans will be going out to a number of areas from Friday for public consultation.