Ervia account reveals huge drain Irish Water remains

Dividend to exchequer from gas network vastly outweighed by Irish Water dividend

“The Government is robbing a small amount from Peter while paying a vast sum to Paul.”

“The Government is robbing a small amount from Peter while paying a vast sum to Paul.”

 

Even by Irish governments’ generally irrational standards, it must be hard to top recent transactions between the State and its utility Ervia for sheer financial silliness.

Ervia owns both Irish Water and Gas Networks Ireland (GNI), the part of what was Bord Gáis that is responsible for the network that transports natural gas around the country. The State kept this after selling the Bord Gáis Energy natural gas and electricity supply business in 2014 for €1.12 billion.

Late last Thursday afternoon, Ervia published its 2018 annual report. Its press release highlighted that it paid a €139 million dividend to the exchequer last year. However, both the statement and the annual report itself show that the State actually gave €1.1 billion to Irish Water.

All of the dividend came from GNI, which charges customers for the use of its network. Closer scrutiny of the accounts shows that €90 million of the payment stemmed from the sale of Bord Gáis Energy, a deal agreed in early 2014, before the Government established Ervia.

So the actual payout from GNI’s operations was €49 million. Whatever way you skin this cat, Ervia cost taxpayers about €1 billion last year. That is on top of €1 billion in Government cash that it received in 2017, when the “dividend” was €148 million.

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, which is responsible for Ervia, maintains that GNI pays a dividend while Irish Water gets a huge subsidy and both are separate and distinct companies, Unfortunately, that point falls on the fact that Ervia flags the €139 million payment in its press release as a group “highlight”, albeit funded by GNI.

What is happening is that the Government is robbing a small amount from Peter while paying a vast sum to Paul. Ervia and the State can dress this up however they want, but the fact remains that one part of the group depends heavily on the taxpayer for cash, a problem that it will have to address sooner or later.

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