Taoiseach denies 'passing the buck' on water metering


BORD GÁIS has been chosen to take charge of the new authority that will oversee water services in order to ensure it remains in public ownership, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

Enda Kenny rejected claims the Government had “passed the buck” and ignored the main recommendation of a €130,000 report by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers calling for the establishment of an independent new utility company to oversee the water-metering programme.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who made the claim, called on the Taoiseach to “pause the project and carry out a fundamental review”.

He said the Government’s handling of water metering “has been diabolical and a shambles”. The PwC report also stated that when Irish Water was fully operational there would be significantly fewer people than the 4,300 now involved in water services. He asked the Taoiseach “why did you ignore the recommendations” on this issue. He claimed “the Government wants to sidestep” the issue and “pass the buck for political reasons”.

Mr Kenny said the Government was “giving responsibility, not passing the buck”. The consultants were given the “responsibility of producing a report in respect of the options”. The Government considered it “more appropriate to use the expertise in existing semi-State bodies with a proven record of dealing with consumers, clients, networks, accountants and bills when setting up Irish Water”.

The Cabinet was sticking to its programme for government “that new entities and operations should not be set up where existing ones could do the job”.

Giving the job to Bord Gáis “keeps this in public ownership, with no intention as will be demonstrated legally of privatising Irish Water”.

Mr Martin said the State was proposing to “spend €500 million, borrowing it from ourselves with no clear cost model published or any documentation except the PwC report”.

The only plan the Government had on water “is to pass the buck”. Bord Gáis “is saying there are serious engineering challenges” and the census had thrown up more challenges, with up to 300,000 houses unsuitable for metering.

Mr Kenny said the consultants’ report set out their view and the Government read the report “unlike some ministers in previous governments who did not read their brief at all”.

The Government considered whether to set up a brand new entity or use existing expertise and the decision was clear. “It was to set up Irish Water under Bord Gáis Éireann as a public utility.”