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No deal to give tender for water meters to O’Brien firm, insists minister

Pat Rabbitte says reports that SiteServ has won the tender to install water meters in Irish homes are incorrect.

Image: Gregory Bull/AP

THE COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER Pat Rabbitte has said reports suggesting a firm recently acquired by Denis O’Brien has been awarded the contract to install domestic water meters are incorrect.

In response to written Dáil questions, Rabbitte said suggestions that SiteServ – a company acquired by an investment vehicle part-owned by O’Brien earlier this year – had been awarded the contract to fit water meters were premature.

It was reported over the weekend that the company, whose subsidiaries include Sierra, had been awarded the contract for the installation and maintenance of about one million meters in homes over the coming years.

Sierra already holds the contract to be the sole installer and maintenance body for domestic boilers for Bord Gáis Energy, which is to become the parent company of Irish Water.

In response to parliamentary questions from Richard Boyd Barrett and John Halligan, however, Rabbitte said the tendering process for Irish Water had not yet commenced.

“This process will be rolled out in the coming months in line with Public Procurement Guidelines. This will be an entirely new and separate procurement process,” Rabbitte said.

“Any existing contractual arrangements in place by BGÉ have no relevance whatsoever to the process of tendering for water meters.”

Shareholders in SiteServ, which owed about €150 million to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (formerly Anglo Irish Bank), agreed last month to sell the company to O’Brien’s Millington investment vehicle for €45 million.

This move proved controversial, however, as it was reported that there were two other higher bids made for the company – while IBRC agreed to accept €50 million in repayment and to write off the remaining €100 million.

This was despite ordinary shareholders receiving just under €5 million as a result of the sale, though finance minister Michael Noonan said the Millington bid had been handled by independent bodies.

“The Board of Siteserv, as advised by KPMG Corporate Finance and Davy Corporate Finance, recommended the successful bid as representing the best return for IBRC,” Noonan said last month.

“The Board of the bank are satisfied that this is the case.”

Read: Plumbers’ association ‘ready to start work’ on installing water meters

More: Enda Kenny: We can’t guarantee water will not be cut off

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