Taoiseach says he knew of Irish Water start-up costs

Kenny pledges company will be subject to ‘full rigours’ of Freedom of Information act

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the company would be subject to the full rigours of the Freedom of Information (FOI) act.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the company would be subject to the full rigours of the Freedom of Information (FOI) act. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Wed, Jan 15, 2014, 18:49

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today he was aware of the €180 million cost of setting up Irish Water.

He also said the company would be subject “to the full rigours’’ of the Freedom of Information (FOI) act and proper responses in the House by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to parliamentary questions.

“This is a public utility in public ownership,’’ said Mr Kenny. “Therefore, there is nothing that should be secret about it and there is nothing that will be secret about it.’’

Speaking in the Dáil , Mr Kenny said it was an issue of “transparency and accountability’’.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said that last year TDs from all sides of the House had asked specific questions of Mr Hogan, relating to the cost of establishing the company, the number of consultancies hired and many other questions.

But no detailed answers were forthcoming, despite the fact that it was now known all the information was with Mr Hogan and the department for well over 12 months. “And it is now clear, Taoiseach, that Minister Hogan did not want to tell the truth to the Dáil about the establishment costs of Irish Water,’’ he added.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said that despite repeated questions on the issue, the minister had refused to give information . He had shown contempt for the Dáil and TDs and citizens.

Earlier Mr Adams called Mr Hogan to resign over his handling of the establishment of Irish Water, saying his ministerial career had been characterised by one debacle after another and this was “one debacle too far”.

Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Barry Cowen said Mr Hogan was “sleepwalking his way into no confidence territory” by claiming he knew nothing of the details of the €86 million expenditure by Irish Water on consultants during its set-up period.

Mr Hogan today refused to say bonuses should not be paid. That was a question for Irish Water and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to work out, he said .

“That’s a matter for the contratural obligations that Irish Water ventured into and if the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform want to review those that’s a matter for them,” he told reporters in Dublin this morning .

Mr Hogan also defended his lack of knowledge of specific details of Irish Water’s expenditure. “I don’t micromanage any state company no more than any other minister,” he said. “That’s why we have the Commission for Energy Regulation. ”

This evening it is the turn of the Public Accounts Committee to question senior managers of the company.

The committee will be inquiring into oversight and spending in Irish Water which has a budget of €180 million for establishing itself.

Speaking in advance of the meeting, PAC chairman John McGuinness said Irish Water should be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

He said Mr Hogan needed to micro-manage Irish Water and said it was a “scandal” that he had not done so to date.

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