THE WEEK AFTER the admission that €50 million was spent on consultants’ fees by Irish Water, representatives from the semi-State body are to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Last week, the chief executive of Irish Water, John Tierney, said that half of its €100m spend over the past year went on consultancy fees. The figure was defended as it was spent “in the context of long-term cost savings”.
The revelation led the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to say that Irish Water must show the consultancy fees were “value for money” and “necessary”.
Tierney did say that the spend would not be repeated in the year ahead.
Irish Water representatives are also due to appear before the Oireachtas Environment Committee tomorrow. Among the representatives will be Tierney.
Michael McCarthy, Cathaoirleach of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, said: “This will be an opportunity for this Committee to examine the operation of Irish Water and address public concerns over spending levels with personnel responsible for the body.”
Today, it was confirmed that representatives of Irish Water will appear before the PAC this Wednesday, at 6.30pm.
The PAC said his evening that it intends to review the oversight and accountability mechanisms put in place in respect of Irish Water.
This review is necessary arising from the recent revelations that Irish Water had spent €50 million on consultancies who were engaged to put new systems in place for the introduction of water charges.
The review by the PAC will involve representatives from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Commission for Energy Regulation, in addition to representatives from Irish Water.
Chairman of the Committee, John McGuinness, stated that under the Water Services Act 2013, “there was no provision made for the conduct of value for money reports which would examine the efficiency and effectiveness of the systems that are put in place to run Irish Water and, under the current arrangements, the Public Accounts Committee is precluded from getting involved in examining the accounts of Irish Water”.
Deputy McGuinness said:
The meeting on Wednesday will provide an opportunity to stress test the oversight systems that are now in place for Irish Water and I would hope that after the meeting the PAC will make recommendations on how oversight and accountability will be enhanced. The review by the PAC is an important step in restoring public confidence in this important public utility company.
The news was welcomed by PAC member and Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, who said he is pleased they will discuss how public money has been spent in setting up the body.
Harris said that it is “only right that Irish Water appear before the PAC” on the issue of consultants’ fees.
The fact that Irish Water doesn’t fall under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General should not diminish the PAC’s determination to scrutinise the spending of public money, so I am pleased that Irish Water is agreeing to appear before the Committee this week.
The Secretary General of the Department of the Environment and representatives from the Commission for Energy Regulation have also been invited to attend.
Harris said they should be called before the PAC “so we can get a full picture of how public money is being spent in the setting up of the new State utilities company”.
Harris said he believes an appearance by Irish Water before both the Environment and Public Accounts Committee “will help ensure transparency and accountability”.