Wexford VEC "wasted" €420,500 of taxpayers' money to pay rent over an eight-year period on a building that it no longer used, it has emerged.

At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, Fine Gael TD Kieran O'Donnell outlined details of correspondence, dated 13 May, from the Department of Education to the committee.

It said that Wexford VEC moved to a new building on 1 July 2006 and left an existing building.

The old building was costing them €67,465 per annum in rent and had a lease with eight years still to run up to 2014.

He said they initially let the office that had been vacated for a two-year period from July 2006 to June 2008 for an annual figure of €51,000, which was effectively €102,000.

"They could not secure a tenant after that and they continued to try and sub-let it and they have sub-let a portion of it from 2012 to October 2014 for a rate of €7,000.

"In total between 2006 and 2014, they took in €119,500, yet the rent of the premises that they paid to a landlord was €540,000, giving a net cost or wastage of taxpayers' money of €420,500."

Mr O'Donnell asked how the situation arose and how it was allowed to continue.

"Are there similar situations arising in other buildings in VECs up and down the country?", he asked.

Department of Education Secretary General Seán Ó Foghlú said he wrote to the committee a few days ago about this matter, which was drawn to their attention by the Comptroller and Auditor General's audit.

Mr Ó Foghlú said the VEC was required to seek approval for the arrangement, but the department has not been able to find this record and it is checking.

Mr O'Donnell said that the level of drain of money over an eight-year period defies logic to ordinary people.

He said: "This cannot be allowed to continue. I think you need to do a due diligence of that entire area. This waste of taxpayers' money should never have happened in the first place."

The Limerick TD said there is a need for controls and the fact that the department cannot find some of the documents relating to it shows that.

Mr Ó Foghlú said he shared Mr O'Donnell's concerns over the waste of taxpayers' money.