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Dublin City Council spent almost €200k a month on Poolbeg consultancy fees

The stalled Poolbeg incinerator project has cost over €90 million over more than ten years – even though construction has yet to start on it…

The Poolbeg power station in Dublin, close to where the incinerator will be located.
The Poolbeg power station in Dublin, close to where the incinerator will be located.
Image: artq55 via Flickr/Creative Commons

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL spent almost €400,000 on consultancy fees for the stalled Poolbeg incinerator project in the first two months of 2013.

The council spent €388,021 on client representative services for January and February of this year, according to the City Manager at a recent council meeting. This is despite the fact that construction has yet to start on the project, which has cost over €90 million during the course of more than a decade.

Consultancy costs have now ran vastly over initial estimates. The initial estimate for client representation services was €8.3 million, which had increased to €28.4 million as of a 2011 audit.

Head of waste management for the council Peadar O’Sullivan told TheJournal.ie that the amount paid to consultants varied as they are paid “on a task basis”, adding that the payment of almost €400,000 would have been “unusually high”.

He said that this was due in part to “specialists being brought in from Europe to deal with the complaint [made against the council]“.

The complaint, which is being made by Sandymount residents Joe McCarthy and Valerie Jennings to the EU, is one of two reasons cited by the council to explain why the construction of the incinerator has been delayed.

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(Image: James Horan/Photocall Ireland)

The residents claim that the council breached EU procurement laws during the course of the project. They also say that the amount spent on client representative services is several times the amount initially estimated.

The other reason cited by the council for the delay is that Covanta, the contractor, requires more time to secure funding for the project.

Next stage

Meanwhile, the council expect the current contract between them and RPS and COWI to be terminated in the coming months. They say that they have nearly completed the evaluation process for shortlisted consultancy candidates for the next stage of the project, and expect to award the contract when the contract with RPS and COWI is finished.

Assistant City Manager Seamus Lyons revealed that RPS, who are the current consultants, are also shortlisted for the next consultancy stage of the project.  ”We are down to four [companies] shortlisted, including RPS,” he said.

O’Sullivan said that RPS and COWI do not have an annual contract but “are needed to carry out tasks leading to financial closure”.

Financial closure in this case is the signing of the renegotiated contract, which recently had the controversial ‘put or pay’ clause removed and was extended from 25 to 45 years.

Frustrating

Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan, who asked the council about consultancy fees, described trying to get information on the incinerator as “torturous”, referring to the project as “one of the most frustrating issues I’ve ever dealt with on the council”.

“We [the councillors] have never been allowed to see the contract terms. They [the Dublin City Council Executive] seem to have locked themselves into an agreement early on which meant that there was no way out,” he told TheJournal.ie.

Consultancy began in 2002, and was initially expected to have been brought to a financial close after three years for approximately €8.3 million.

Head of waste management Peader O’Sullivan cited “many issues [which] have been raised”, as well as the current complaints and lack of funding, as reasons why this consultancy stage has lasted almost eight years longer and cost over €16 million more than initially estimated.

RPS Group, who are heading the consultancy team, currently have several other contracts with Dublin City Council, including a long running contract for Ballymore Eustace Water Treatment Plant.

Read: Poolbeg incinerator plan delayed (again) but controversial clause gets dumped >

Read: Date for Poolbeg waste plant postponed yet again >

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