Burton refuses to be drawn on cost of water grant scheme

FOI reveals department is seeking extra resources to run water conservation grant scheme

An FOI from the Tánaiste’s department has revealed the Department of Social Protection is seeking extra resources  to run the water conservation grant scheme. Photograph: Frank Miller /The Irish Times

An FOI from the Tánaiste’s department has revealed the Department of Social Protection is seeking extra resources to run the water conservation grant scheme. Photograph: Frank Miller /The Irish Times

 

The Department of Social Protection has set out a plan to administer the €100 water conservation grant, Tánaiste Joan Burton has told the Dáil.

She refused to be drawn on the cost involved.

Ms Burton, who is Minister in the Department, said it administered 85 million payments annually and had made significant savings through reform of the system.

“A critical part of that is constant engagement and advice and discussion between the Department of Social Protection and other relevant departments,’’ she said.

The Tánaiste was responding in the Dáil on Thursday to Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald on the revelation that the department is seeking extra resources from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to run the scheme.

Mr Cowen said an FOI from the Tánaiste’s department revealed that the secretary general had written to her counterpart in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The letter, he said, had referred to the additional burden on the Department of Social Protection and outlined the need for a project team, extra staff and how resourcing and processing payment of the conservation grant applications in 2015 and beyond could not be accommodated from within existing resources.

Mr Cowen said the letter also referred to consultancy costs, external service provision, including legal and procurement costs, postal and advertising charges, and an administration team and staff to support the application process.

“Information continues and appears to be hidden by the Government and they know that every decision they made last year on Irish Water and the charges associated with it has backfired completely,’’ Mr Cowen added.

“The more that is revealed, the less confidence there is in the entire debacle.’’

Ms Burton said the department had put in place a project team which was “scoping out” a development plan.

Ms McDonald said the Tánaiste’s handling of an unfair tax was “shambolic’’ and the latest revelation had also emphasised the fact that she had been less than fully frank with the people and the Dáil.