New Irish Water directors to face ‘elevated’ criteria

Board will be expected to increase public confidence in semi-State after controversies

 

The criteria for choosing new directors for the merged board to take over responsibility for Irish Water will be “somewhat elevated” from previous appointments to the semi-State, according to Coalition sources.

The new board - to be created by merging the current boards of Ervia, formerly Bord Gáis, and Irish Water - will also be expected to increase public confidence in the semi-State after months of controversy and questions over how the company operated and communicated its message.

It is expected there will be substantial change to the line up of directors when the new board is announced at the end of the month.

Sources said the criteria for choosing a new board will be “somewhat elevated” from the methods used before, with members expected to be appointed from the areas of finance, consumer affairs, the legal sector.

The governance of the company has emerged as a key issue for Ministers as they try to settle months of controversy over Irish Water.

Sources said the issue of bonuses would be a matter for the new board but one of the options available to it could be “an independent assessment” of the current pay structures within the company.

However, Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen said water charging must be fully suspended until a review of the company is carried out.

The Economic Management Council met yesterday to discuss a number of issues around water charges, such as changes to the pricing structure, corporate governance, bonuses in the company, and PPS numbers.

The meeting, which went on for over two hours, was also attended by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and Minister for Communications Alex White.

While a number of issues were discussed, no final measures for inclusion in the Coalition’s revised water charges plan were decided at yesterday’s meeting.

The talks were said to be “complex” and it was again stressed that Ministers will not be rushed in to finding a solution, with one figure saying the final package will not be unveiled for another “two to three weeks”.

It is understood there will be no changes to the provision that householders must provide their PPS numbers in order to claim their free allowances but there a renewed focus on the communications regarding PPS numbers.

“You could think of numerous occasions over the past six months when you would have been asked to provide a PPS number,” a Government figure said. “It just hasn’t been communicated correctly.”

On the issue of bonuses, one source said: “The idea that someone who doesn’t fulfil their duties is rewarded is just not tenable. One of the options for the new board will be an independent analysis of the current structure.”

Separately, Irish Water has confirmed it is in the process of hiring a data protection manager but said it was already adhering to the security and data protection policies of Ervia, its parent company.

“This process has and will continue to be managed by the Ervia Group information security and data protection manager, pending the appointment of a suitable candidate for Irish Water,” a statement said.