TDs insist on Irish Water disclosing consultant pay
State firm due to answer questions on €50m spend before Oireachtas hearing
Irish Water chief executive John Tierney and other senior staff will attend an Oireachtas committee hearing tomorrow. File Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times
Independent TD Catherine Murphy said this morning Irish Water’s State funding and status as a monopoly required the disclosure of such information when chief executive John Tierney and other senior staff will attend a committee hearing tomorrow.
“We expect to find out who they [the consultants] were, what work they did, and what was spent on them,” she said.
“I don’t buy this that there are confidentiality issues. This is after all a monopoly. Not only that, but why was there a need for consultants in the first place?” asked Ms Murphy, who was speaking on RTÉ this morning.
Her comments echo those made by other committee members over the course of the weekend, with most focus on two issues: the €50m spend on consultancy as well as the process of procurement used to recruit Irish Water staff.
A majority of the nine-member management team come from other local authorities or from the sponsoring department, the Department of Environment, while two were former employees of RPS, an international consultancy firm which gave ongoing advice to Dublin City Council over the Poolbeg incinerator project when Mr Tierney was city manager.
Irish Water is expected to seek the permission of some of the companies to which it paid €50m in consultancy fees, in an effort to give a detailed breakdown of the expenditure. A spokesperson said it would disclose the “maximum amount of detail” but would have to have due regard for any commercially sensitive information.
Separately, Dublin Chamber of Commerce has raised some concerns that Dublin’s water supplies may not be met, notwithstanding the establishment of Irish water and that the regulator may seek to increase the prices charged to Dublin business.
Ahead of a forum on this issue next Friday, the chamber circulated its submission to the regulator which points to an increase of some 60 per cent in water use in Dublin over the next two decades.
“We are concerned that the regulator will set the price of water for business at a simple national average. This acts as a disincentive to the provision of efficient water systems. Dublin Chamber proposes the use of targeted pricing,” its submission stated.
Environment Committee chairman Michael McCarthy said he expects tomorrow’s committee hearing to be a “full and frank discussion” and will be pressing Irish Water to give a detailed breakdown.
Neither the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan or the Minister of State with responsibility in this area Fergus O’Dowd were aware that some €50m had been spent on consultancies to date.
A series of separate parliamentary questions submitted by Fianna Fáil spokesman and his Sinn Féin counterpart Brian Stanley, as well as Labour TD Kevin Humphreys, on the cost of consultancies were referred on by Mr O’Dowd to Irish Water for reply. None of the details were disclosed by the company to the TDs.
Another issue has arisen over the manner in which Irish Water has been excluded from the provision of the Freedom of Information Act until after its operational by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.
The Government seemed to row back somewhat on that position yesterday when Mr O’Dowd said he would expect it to be retrospective. “I can’t see how it wouldn’t be,” he said.