National Transport Authority defends paying €1.82m for offices during pandemic

WeWork facilities unoccupied for extended periods

A State agency has defended paying €1.82 million for temporary WeWork offices for its staff even though it was unoccupied for extended periods due to pandemic work-from-home rules.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) said the WeWork office in Dublin had been rented as they made plans to bring all their staff, based in four different locations, under one roof either next year or in 2024.

Around €600,000 has been paid on average each year since the arrangement began in the spring of 2019, according to figures released under Freedom of Information.


Internal emails detail how the office ended up empty for extended periods as NTA staff were told to work from home in line with government restrictions.


An email to WeWork from the NTA in September 2020: “As you know we are currently paying full retail rate whilst not occupying the workspace.

“We do of course intend to return to the office once public health/government advice allows, however at this stage we have no indication of when that may be.”

As part of discussions to extend the deal, the NTA looked for discounts and flexibility around walking away from the contract if they needed to. A board paper recommending an extension to the deal in autumn 2020 said it was a good option in a “time of uncertainty” while committing to a short rental period.

It also explained that one of the NTA’s existing office locations was unsuitable for occupation due to social distancing requirements even if work-from-home rules were loosened. The arrangement was again given the green light in July 2021 with briefing papers saying it was still the best “short term, flexible solution” available.

A spokesman for the NTA said they had a significant shortage of office space for their staff with just three desks for every four staff members.

Over the next 12 months, this will reduce even further to just two desks for every three employees with staff numbers increasing from 446 to 523.


The spokesman said more staff currently moving back to the office and they were working through the “logistical challenges” of that.

He said the temporary arrangement with WeWork had represented good value for money especially with the uncertainties of Covid-19. It allowed for annual extensions to be approved, without tying them up in a longer-term lease.

“It was our view that to take out a more traditional form of lease over a fixed number of years for this space, would likely result in the NTA incurring overlapping rents as staff transitioned to the consolidated office from 2023. Clearly this would not represent value for money,” said the spokesman.

The National Transport Authority had first signed up for the new arrangement in April 2019 to manage its “immediate incremental accommodation requirements”.

A briefing paper for the board said the NTA had been given government approval to expand its office footprint in December 2018 to house 26 new staff.

However, within a short time, it became clear that further staff would be needed to work on a variety of projects including BusConnects, cycling networks, and ticketing systems.

Internal emails detail how some concerns were raised internally over the original agreement to rent the offices on Charlemont Street.

The NTA’s legal department said it appeared that indemnities were “weighed very heavily in favour of WeWork” and recommended a more in-depth review of some of the terms and conditions.


They said the confidentiality of the work the NTA did would need to be safeguarded, while the security of NTA staff’s personal information and office opening hours needed to be examined.

Other briefing papers later detail how the WeWork lease was considered a success with management of the building “co-operative” and easily contactable.

They said that community management, security, cleaners, maintenance, and wifi were all included in the cost and run efficiently.

A listing of pros and cons for the deal said the only negative was “increased costs”.

The records also detail how the NTA were at one stage considering hiring extra space through WeWork but that Covid-19 restrictions had put that “firmly off the table”.