AN INQUIRY will take place into the Welsh Government’s handling of the £1.6 million purchase of a former Llangollen hotel.
Members of the National Assembly for Wales’ public accounts committee have decided to investigate the controversial River Lodge scheme.
Earlier this month the Welsh Government came in for severe criticism in a report from the Auditor General.
It said the price of £1.6 million paid for the hotel was not supported by a full valuation and the available evidence suggests the Welsh Government paid more than the property was worth.
Members of the public accounts committee have now received a briefing from assistant Auditor General Gillian Body and compliance manager Ian Hughes and decided to take the matter further.
The committee will carry out an inquiry into the findings of the report. Its clerk is currently compiling a list of potential witnesses to provide evidence.
Chairman Darran Millar said it was possible former ministers and assembly members involved with the scheme could be invited to attend and speak to members as part of their inquiries.
“I can’t make any pre-judgements. We need to get to the bottom of what happened,” said Mr Millar.
“Once we have heard the evidence a report will be produced with recommendations. Lessons have to be learnt from this.”
The summer recess is likely to influence the timescale of the inquiry and Mr Millar thought even if the committee started shortly they would be continuing in the early autumn.
It may be possible that due to the strong Llangollen connections involved in the inquiry some evidence is taken in North Wales.
At the time the Auditor General’s conclusions were released Mr Millar issued a statement which said: “The report highlights a catalogue of flawed decisions – all of which were entirely avoidable – and all of which have cost the taxpayer considerable sums of money.
“In particular, it is concerning that the purchase price of £1.6 million was not supported by a full valuation and that between 2007 and 2012 the Welsh Government has incurred additional costs, relating to maintenance, security and business and water rates, of £200,000.”
River Lodge was bought by the Welsh Government in March 2007 in what became a troubled attempt to establish a community initiative in a lease agreement with the organisation Powys Fadog, headed by Shaolin monk Pol Wong.
Under the proposals the property would be used for a number of purposes. including providing a community centre, running guided tours, residential courses in Welsh and a martial arts centre of excellence.
But the Auditor General’s report says that five years on the property remains vacant, has become derelict and all at considerable expense to the taxpayer.
Mr Wong has stressed Powys Fadog has previously been praised for the high quality of its business plans by a wide range of organisations.