An analysis of Galway's European Capital of Culture designation shows 87% of funds for the project came from the public purse.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's report said this was contrary to a Government decision that Exchequer funding for Galway 2020 would not exceed 50%.

It is also critical of initial financial statements by Galway 2020, saying the level of disclosure "was significantly less than was appropriate for a company that relied significantly" on State funds.

Chapter 7 of today's report gives an oversight of funding for the European Capital of Culture project.

A Performance Delivery Agreement (PDA) between the department and Galway 2020 set out the terms under which monies would be provided.

This reflected the department's commitment to provide €15m, but did not specify the requirement for the amount not to exceed 50% of overall funding. Local Authority funding of €10m was also provided to the project.

The C&AG report points out that the use of an independent company to run Galway 2020 was different to the model previously used for other Capital of Culture events in Ireland.

It was initially envisaged that the majority of funding would be non-Exchequer sourced, but anticipated private sponsorship did not materialise, and ticket sales were severely impacted by the pandemic.

The report reveals that Galway City Council was paid €2.8m to fund three of the signature events during the planned programme: Mirrored Pavillion, Middle Island and Gilgamesh. This involved a separate bilateral agreement between the council and the department.

The productions in question, by Galway International Arts Festival, Druid Theatre and Macnas respectively, had mixed fortunes.

Mirrored Pavillion by artist John Gerard was displayed in the city last year and has recently been on show in Connemara.

The Middle Island project was abandoned after Druid Theatre cited funding, communication and planning issues during its gestation. The company subsequently presented other work for the 2020 programme.

The Macnas production, Gilgamesh, was significantly scaled back as a result of the pandemic and took the form of a largely audio visual presentation.

The department said it had checks in place for the drawdown of these funds, to ensure the city council was complying with the terms of the PDA.

These included written drawdown requests from the council CEO, evidence of payment of previous drawdowns and evidence of expenditure by grant recipients.

The C&AG said this should help identify lessons that will inform similar events in future.

€6.48 million spent on Galway 2020 last year

The annual report for the Galway 2020 company shows that total expenditure last year came to €6.48m.

Much of the planned programme had to be abandoned due to the pandemic and a lavish opening ceremony was also cancelled in February 2020.

The report shows that almost €700,000 was spent on "promotional activities".

A further €143,000 went on travel. This takes in hotels, travel costs and "entertainment". Just over €1m was spent on wages for staff working on the project.

The report covers the period from January 2020 to April 2021.

The costs incurred in this period comprise some of the total spend of over €24.6m on the project to date.

Galway 2020 says insurance cover was used to offset some of the costs incurred as a result of the cancellation of the opening event in February of last year.

The €2 million event had to be called off due to a Status Red wind warning for the city on 9 February. But there is no detail in the annual report about the exact costs incurred, or how much was recouped from insurance.

Similarly, there is no breakdown for the costs of individual events that took place over the course of the designation.

Galway 2020 paid statutory redundancy to a number of employees, but it has not released data on individual termination of agreement payments to two creative directors. One of these left the company after the formal launch.

No detail has been provided in relation to legal settlements as a result of proceedings taken by a number of individuals either.

Galway 2020 says the projects presented in the report "represent an extraordinary achievement by the artists, organisations and groups" that worked to create events in trying circumstances.