The Office of Public Works was established as the Board of Works in 1831. It took on the functions of a number of other offices and organisations including the Office of the Surveyor-General (1670-1763) the Barrack Board and the Board of Works, (1700 to 1823) the Public Works Loan Commissioners and the Directors of Inland Navigation. The original Board comprised three members who were independent of their counterparts in England and were responsible to the Lords Commissioner through the Treasury.
During the famine, the OPW operated public works schemes. Over the latter part of the 19th century, it was given responsibility in relation to a range of public buildings including police barracks, national schools, post offices, universities and lunatic asylums. Formerly, the OPW acted as a lender in respect of public works
The OPW carried out large arterial drainage works in the late 19th century. It commissioned many of Ireland’s most important public buildings. It was given responsibility for monuments in 1882 and is responsible for over 750 heritage sites.
The OPW is under the auspices of the Department of Public Expenditure. A Minister for State has special responsibility for the OPW. The Office still comprises a chairperson and two Commissioners.
Various Functions and Divisions
The OPW’s present functions are in the area of estate and portfolio management, heritage services, national procurement services and flood risk management. It provides accommodation for government services and manages a wide range of state assets and property.
The architectural section provides a full design and project management service for public sector buildings, conservation management, advisory services and independent advice to the government.
The art management office operates under the art management group. It implements public policies on art in state buildings including the procurement and commissioning of art. It manages art purchases, commissions and historic artworks in OPW-managed heritage properties.
The chairman’s office provides administrative support to the chairman and OPW members. It provides secretarial service for various entities and coordinates various matters.
The building maintenance service carries out maintenance and development work on heritage buildings in the major urban areas.
The press office provides information to the media about OPW’s activities.
The engineering services business unit provides professional engineering services over a range over a range of disciplines in connection with government policies and OPW work programs. It is responsible for flood risk management and coastal protection. This maintains 40 arterial drainage and embankment schemes. It provides design and advisory services on flood relief. It has statutory responsibility for the inspection of drainage districts.
The division provides civil and structural engineering design and construction services to areas in the OPW. It coordinates the activities of government departments and local authorities in relation to the National Flood Risk Management Policy under EU Council Directive.
It maintains arterial drainage schemes under the Arterial Drainage Acts. It has published floodmaps.ie in relation to historical and recent flood events and sites.
The financial services unit is responsible for the overall financial affairs of the OPW. It comprises a management information unit, a management accounting service and accounts branch.
The furniture division is the central contracting authority for the procurement of furniture. It provides spatial planning of furniture layout allowance for proposed office upgrades. It procures furnitures and disposes of it.
The Government Publications Office, including election service, and Irish Oifiguil is responsible for the sale of government department’s publications and reports on behalf of government departments. Formerly operated a retail shop in Molesworth Street and a mail-order section.
It has responsibility for the electronics statute system and liaises with the Attorney General’s office in relation to the allocation of SI numbers. It publishes Irish Oifiguil.
It has a role in relation to running elections, including supplying election-running officers, stationary stamping and equipment for elections.
The health and n safety and asbestos management unit, coordinate safety strategies across the organisation. It provides advisory service to safety managers on health safety and welfare at work matters.
The Heritage Service comprises three sections; National Monuments, National Historic Properties and Visitor Services. The National Monuments division operates in six regions. It manages visitor facilities and sites, as well as providing a range of other services.
The National Historic Property section involves the protection, maintenance, preservation and day-to-day management of historic properties in the State. This includes Phoenix Park, St. Stephen’s Green, Ivy Gardens, Farmleigh House and other parks and gardens. There are managed by the State under the State Authorities (Development and Management) Act 1933.
The Events Management unit provides a range of services to government clients particularly in relation to commemorations, state visits and formal functions involving the President or Taoiseach.
The Visitor Service Section focuses on guidance, information, education and marketing in respect of OPW-managed properties. It recruits and trains guides and provides information services to the public. It manages 69 heritage sites on which 59 are fee-paying. It is responsible for educational programs for schools.
The project management service plays a central and pivotal role in the provision of infrastructure for government departments, offices and agencies. It is involved in the strategic management for a wide range of projects, varying from new construction, refurbishment, conservation and maintenance. This ranges from the construction of public buildings to the restoration and conservation of historic properties.
The property maintenance service comprises a number of sections.
- The regional maintenance network,
- building maintenance service,
- health and safety unit and
- furniture services unit.
It coordinates and manages programs of maintenance works, refurbishments and fit outs.
The property management service is responsible for management of the state portfolio of property. It includes the property management section, office accommodation section, property rental section and the school section. It manages state-owned property and property seized on behalf of the government and associated agencies. It formulates the policy and strategy for civil service accommodation. It maintains a register of properties in the state portfolio.
The internal audit group provides independent assurance to the OPW management advisory committee, audit committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General in relation to the office’s affairs.
The Legal Service section provides legal services to the OPW. It liaises with the State Claims Office in relation to claims arising out of property it manages. It provides services to trusts under the OPW’s aegis.
The Minister’s office provides administrative and advisory services to the Minister for State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the office of Public Works.
The National Procurement Service was established in 2009 and centralised the public sector procurement arrangements were common goods and services, exclusive of construction. It seeks to provide a centre of excellence for the provision of procurement advice and implementing best practice. It develops e-procurement strategies.
The personnel and development service provides personnel services for OPW staff, including training and performance management.
The policy unit provides advice, facilitation and various services to the Board, the management advisory committee, OPW business units and other entities within the OPW.