Hogan faces renewed queries on Irish Water consultancy fees

Former minister expected to be named as EU agriculture commissioner

 Phil Hogan:  Sinn Féin MEPs, as well as Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan,  say  they will vote against the new European Commission in its entirety if Mr Hogan is included.  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Phil Hogan: Sinn Féin MEPs, as well as Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan, say they will vote against the new European Commission in its entirety if Mr Hogan is included. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Ireland’s EU commissioner-designate, Phil Hogan, is facing renewed questions over his oversight of Irish Water and its spending on external consultants during his time as minister for the environment.

Mr Hogan is tipped to get the agriculture portfolio this week when European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announces his commission line-up, although it will have to be ratified by the European Parliament.

It emerged earlier this year that Irish Water had spent more than €50 million on external consultants as it established itself as a new semi-State company; documents released to RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme show Mr Hogan signed off on a budget for Irish Water’s establishment costs.

While the document did not use the word “consulting”, it listed spending on areas such as IT, customer billing and registration, and support services, which were contracted out to external bodies.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Hogan needed to provide further details about what he knew, while Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams claimed Mr Hogan had been “caught out” and should not have been nominated to the commission by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

When the controversy over consultancy spending emerged earlier this year, Mr Hogan maintained that while he was aware of overall spending, he did not “micro-manage” how the money was spent. The letter dated October 21st, 2013, listed expenditure such as €32 million on IT, €12 million on customer billing and registration and €8 million on support services.

Irish Water’s parent company, An Bord Gáis, told the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year it was always envisaged consultants would be hired to work with Irish Water in IT and other areas.

Mr Hogan, who did not return calls last night, made similar statements earlier this year and also said: “The detail in relation to what contracts were being given out or who was procuring is not my business, it’s a matter for Irish Water.”

The Government has insisted Mr Hogan discharged all his responsibilities “exactly in accordance with his legal requirements”.

Sinn Féin MEPs, as well as Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan, have said they will vote against the new European Commission in its entirety if Mr Hogan is included.