Tuesday 25 October 2016

Councils spent €3.2m in five years fighting Panda waste collection case

Council chief Owen Keegan
Council chief Owen Keegan
Cllr Paddy McCartan

Dublin's four councils spent more than €3m defending the Panda waste case over five years, the Herald can reveal.

Dublin City Council (DCC) just last month withdrew an appeal against the High Court judgment which found that the council showed bias and unfairness in order to benefit their involvement in the controversial €500m Poolbeg Incinerator project.

Mr Justice McKechnie ruled on the case in December 2009 and criticised both DCC and engineering firm RPS Consulting Engineering for "massaging" reports to support the progression of the divisive Poolbeg Incinerator project.

Panda and Greenstar waste companies took a case to challenge a DCC decision to change the waste collection permit system. The move would have seen only the council or a contractor, appointed by the local authority, licensed to collect household waste.

The total cost of the Panda legal proceedings was €3.2m which was divided between the four Dublin local authorities. DCC was liable for €1.4m of those costs. Bills for expert witnesses ran to €68,000.

Meanwhile, the fees associated with the Supreme Court appeal came to around €97,000.

The city council costs were paid from the waste management revenue budget, according to information provided to Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan. Mr McCartan told the Herald that the total cost was "much higher" than councillors had believed.

He is one of several city councillors who opposes the controversial Poolbeg Incinerator. He has previously slammed the legal proceedings and appeal as a "waste of public money".

In the damning judgment published in 2009, former assistant city manager Matt Twomey was singled out as a senior staff member who was aware of the manipulation of records to secure the outcome that Poolbeg would go ahead.

City management confirmed that the current chief executive Owen Keegan has not sought an apology from the former official in light of the judgement.

Mr Keegan also confirmed that he does not stand over a statement made by Elizabeth Arnett as a representative of RPS in which she refuted the statements in the judgement that RPS altered data to support the council's agenda.

Mr Keegan has said that he would welcome an independent investigation into the Poolbeg project including matters which gave rise to delays when it has been "brought to fruition".

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