Irish Water faces criticism for €50 million spend

Ministers say controversy is a ‘wake up call’

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said it was necessary to spend heavily at the beginning to set up the Irish Water operation. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said it was necessary to spend heavily at the beginning to set up the Irish Water operation. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 


As Irish Water faced widespread criticism for spending €50 million in a single year on external consultants Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said it was necessary to spend heavily at the beginning to set up the operation.

But there were mixed signals from the Coalition. Some Ministers defended the body, while others privately admitted the semi-State had to show greater accountability and transparency and said the controversy would be a “wake-up call” for Irish Water.

Mr Hogan insisted the money was needed to establish the company.

Long-term savings
He said all external contracts were open to competition and getting the establishment of Irish Water right would save money in the long term.

“Well, €50 million is a lot of money but €50 million is part of the money that is required to set up this company that will bring €2 billion in savings to the taxpayer over the next seven years,” Mr Hogan told the Sue Nunn Show on KCLR radio. “It certainly is going to cost money to set up a company from scratch.

“These particular costs have been openly tendered for and they have been verified by the regulator. This is going to be a very cost-effective and lean operation.”

He said contracts were not “part of a cosy arrangement, they are tendered for”.

‘Runaway train’
However, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore insisted Irish Water had to show the money was well spent, while Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the €50 million “seems extraordinary” and more detail was needed.

Fianna Fáil said Irish Water was a “runaway train” with spiralling costs which would lead to higher water bills for consumers. The party’s environment spokesman Barry Cowen said the semi-State and Government had not provided enough information about its establishment.

He said it was “deliberately clouded in secrecy by Government” and Fianna Fáil had tabled a Dáil motion for next week calling for Irish Water to be brought under the Freedom of Information Act.

‘Breathtaking sum’
Labour TD Ged Nash described the consultancy spend as “astonishing” and a “breathtaking sum of money in anybody’s language”.

Fine Gael Wicklow deputy Simon Harris said that while it was “essential” to get the establishment of Irish Water right, the consultancy spend was “very unsettling”.