Irish Water executives were no longer working with major consultancy when recruited, says utility chief

John Tierney says employees came from private sector, Bord Gáis and local and central Government

Chief executive of Irish Water John Tierney: “the management team of Irish Water was recruited by open recruitment,.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Chief executive of Irish Water John Tierney: “the management team of Irish Water was recruited by open recruitment,.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Irish Water has defended how it recruited senior staff and moved to clarify the circumstances surrounding their engagement.

Chief executive John Tierney said two former executives with a consultancy firm that advised on the Poolbeg thermal treatment project when he was Dublin city manager had left the firm by the time Irish Water employed them.

He said they were employed following an “open recruitment” process.

Irish Water’s head of asset management Jerry Grant was the managing director of RPS (Ireland South) until August 2012. Elizabeth Arnett was head of project communications at the same firm until December 2012. She is now head of communications and corporate services in Irish Water.

RPS is a major international consultant firm that advises on energy and other major infrastructure projects.

Last night Irish Water said Mr Grant resigned from RPS in August 2012 and established his own consultancy as a water services specialist.

It said that he was doing work for the Irish Water programme (the project that was put in place to set up Irish Water) and later competed for his current position in April 2013. He had almost four decades’ experience as a specialist water engineer, it said.

The statement said Ms Arnett resigned her position in RPS in December 2012 and then joined the Irish Water programme as an employee of Bord Gáis Éireann.

“Following a publicly advertised recruitment process Mrs Arnett was appointed as head of communications and corporate services in Irish Water in September 2013.”

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday Mr Tierney had said that neither Mr Grant nor Ms Arnett was “working with RPS when they were recruited by Irish Water.

“They were already working with the Irish Water programme on the establishment and had resigned from their positions in the previous company.”

The issue of Irish Water’s recruitment policy arose when Mr Tierney was interviewed by Seán O’Rourke on the Today programme yesterday and disclosed that the company had paid some €50 million in consultancy fees during its first year in operation.

Minor role

Irish Water said last night that RPS had had a minor role in the establishment of Irish Water. “It has been employed to assist with due diligence and provide technical support. The involvement will cease in July 2014 and the total consultancy cost on establishing Irish Water will be €260,000,” it said in a statement.

It was put to Mr Tierney on RTÉ there was criticism that the recruitment of staff and management at the company was too “insiderish”, with over half the nine-person management team coming from local authorities and the sponsoring Government department.

“The management team of Irish Water was recruited by open recruitment, giving everybody who wished to apply an opportunity to apply for those jobs,” he said.

He said there were people who came from the private sector, from Bord Gáis and from local government. When asked was there a golden circle, he replied: “Absolutely not.”

He also said that few from other water utilities in other jurisdictions had applied because the salary levels for Irish Water were not at the same level as theirs.

RPS had advised Dublin City Council on the Poolbeg thermal treatment project or incinerator when Mr Tierney was city manager. RPS was paid over €30 million for its services over a period of a decade.