Irish Water: nine questions TDs are likely to ask

John Tierney and other executives to appear at committee over €50m spend on consultants

John Tierney faces questions from the Oireachtas environment committee on the setup costs of Irish Water

John Tierney faces questions from the Oireachtas environment committee on the setup costs of Irish Water

Mon, Jan 13, 2014, 16:33

Irish Water was quick to accept the invitation to appear before an Oireachtas committee tomorrow to explain itself and answer questions about the €50 million it spent on consultancy fees in its first year of operation.

The speed of its response indicated the seriousness with which it is taking the controversy. The company is clearly aware that it needs political and public support this year as it begins water metering in earnest.

Although the first bills with not drop through letterboxes until this time next year, they will be backdated to October 2014.

Water charges are likely to be one of the main political issues of the coming months, and any missteps from Irish Water will be met with howls of political and public outcry.

Chief executive John Tierney’s interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio last week has caused a rocky start, but Mr Tierney will have an opportunity to steady things at the Oireachtas environment committee.

Committee chairman Michael McCarthy, a Labour deputy for Cork-South West, says he expects a “full and frank” discussion.

Here are some key questions Mr Tierney is likely to face, and which he should deal with adequately.

What is the detailed breakdown of the €50 million consultancy spend?

Irish Water must deal with this issue satisfactorily or else there is little point in it turning up at the committee at all. It has previously said it is prevented from providing a breakdown for commercial reasons, but that excuse will not find any purchase with TDs. It is likely to be one of the first questions to be asked, and simply must be answered.

What service did each company provide?

As well as laying out the amount of money paid to each company, Irish Water must also detail the services each company provided, and why exactly the services were needed.

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

If there is one thing TDs like less than being refused information by State bodies, it is having to look on while the media steals their thunder. The issue of Irish Water’s consultancy fees has been doing the rounds for a few months, and repeated parliamentary questions yielded no answers. It took a question from Seán O’Rourke to draw the information from Mr Tierney. Expect the Irish Water chief executive to be asked why TDs couldn’t get the same answer.

Who knew about the spending, and what level of detail did they know?

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