Empty government office desks costing over £17m a year
Thousands of empty office desks are costing the public purse more than £17 million a year, the Audit Office has revealed.
The report into the use of office space owned or rented by government departments also found old and inefficient properties were contributing to bills and said o pportunities to make significant savings had been missed over the past five years.
Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly said: "The current configuration and management of the office buildings used by government departments is not delivering value for money.
"The existing office estate consists to a significant extent, of highly inefficient cellular and ageing accommodation."
The central government office estate is made up of 276 offices - a reduction of 10% in three years.
About half of the offices are owned by public sector bodies and half are rented.
The direct running costs amount to £96 million each year.
Of the 35,000 workstations that comprise the estate, some 6,382 (18%) are vacant and incur costs of £17.3 million each year.
Meanwhile, the report revealed irregular expenditure totalling £441,000 by the Department of Health because of a failure to comply with new controls for some leased properties.
The retention of surplus assets such as buildings which are no longer or only partially in use, was also highlighted because of maintenance costs and delays to the income from building sales.
Investment is needed in fit for purpose office accommodation, the auditor said.
"I welcome the generation of £17.7 million in savings across the office estate since the 2012 report but many opportunities still exist to release further, significant savings," said Mr Donnelly.
"It is important that the required upfront funding is now invested to facilitate the procurement, or refurbishment of existing buildings to accommodate higher numbers and densities of staff in modern, space efficient and fit for purpose premises.
"Without such investment, the predicted release of savings is unlikely to be achieved."