How Irish Water dealt with the questions at the Oireachtas environment committee

What we learned, and what we still don’t know

John Tierney, chief executive, arriving at the meeting of the Oireachtas environment committee to answer questions on the set-up costs of Irish Water. Photograph: Eric Luke.

John Tierney, chief executive, arriving at the meeting of the Oireachtas environment committee to answer questions on the set-up costs of Irish Water. Photograph: Eric Luke.


Did it provide a detailed breakdown of the consultancy spend?
The comprehensive briefing document provided to TDs in advance of the meeting spelled out exactly where Irish Water spent the money, and then went even further. The company said it expected to spend about €85 million in total on consultants and external contractors by next April, when it expects all the systems needed for its establishment will be in place.

Did Irish Water say what the money was spent on?

Again, Irish Water’s attitude seemed to be to kill the Oireachtas environment committee with information, and it went into impressive detail on its tender processes, and what it engaged each company for.

How come it took an RTÉ interview for the information to be disclosed?

The level of political annoyance that it took an interview from Seán O’Rourke to get the details of the consultancy spend out of company chief executive John Tierney could be seen from the fact that numerous TDs raised the issue that similar queries they submitted had been ignored. Mr Tierney said it is up to the Department of the Environment to answer questions from TDs in the first instance, and added that he had no problem with Irish Water being opened up to Freedom of Information. However, TDs became more annoyed when they learned the department knew of the consultancy spend but did not provide them with details.

Did John Tierney say who knew what about the spending, and when they knew it?

Irish Water did not exactly detail who knew,
but provided a painstaking account of what organisations knew, such as the troika. The short version is officials in the Department of the Environment knew what was being spent
on consultants, but Phil Hogan and Fergus O’Dowd didn’t.

Who sanctioned the consultancy spend?

Irish Water said all spending was given the go-ahead by its board.

Did the Cabinet know what was going on?

No, information apparently went no further than the Department of the Environment.

Why didn’t Irish Water used the resources of Bord Gáis, its parent company?

Mr Tierney and other executives repeatedly said external consultants were needed to establish Irish Water, and that the Government
and Department of the Environment
knew this.

Why were so many local authority employees recruited to senior positions in Irish Water?

Irish Water said its 299 staff – some of whom have been recruited but have yet to start
work – did not just come from the ranks of local authorities. Mr Tierney said 59 came from Bord Gáis, 98 from local authorities, five from the Department of the Environment and 137 from other companies and organisations.

Will there be more spending on

Yes, but Irish Water said nowhere near as much was needed to set the company up.

What more can be done to make
Irish Water more transparent and

The Government partly answered
that question by promising to open
Irish Water to Freedom of Information,
but TDs did not get proper answers to
their queries on whether the new semi-State
will answer their parliamentary questions.

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