Eurostat 'has got it grossly wrong' on Irish Water money, claims Government
THE Government has attacked what it describes as "grossly erroneous" research used by Eurostat when it ruled that Irish Water's borrowings must remain on the State's balance sheet.
The Coalition has told the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to immediately clarify 26 serious concerns it has with the decision handed down by the European statistical agency last week.
It accuses Eurostat of misrepresenting "fundamental issues of fact".
Official correspondence sent from the Department of the Environment to the CSO last Friday robustly defends the independence of Irish Water and insists it is a stand-alone company that is not controlled by the Government.
The letter was sent a week after Eurostat caused huge embarrassment to the Coalition when it ruled that any money borrowed by the controversial utility had to be recorded on the State's balance sheet.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly's officials accused the agency of making its ruling using research littered with errors.
In one instance, Eurostat used "inaccurate" figures concerning the charge for a single-adult household and the penalties that will be applied if people refuse to pay.
The Department of the Environment also finds fault with the suggestion that the majority of water staff are employed by Irish Water, and insists that the €100 conservation grant is not a direct payment to the company as all houses are entitled to the payment, not only Irish Water customers.
It also says Eurostat is "incorrect" to state that most Irish Water staff are local authority employees, adding that it is "grossly erroneous" to assert that local authorities retain control of the network.
Among the reasons why Irish Water failed the Eurostat test was that the agency believes the Government exerts too much control over the company.
Crucially, Eurostat also ruled that less than 51pc of Irish Water's revenue stream would come from domestic and commercial customers who paid for their water.
This means it could not be considered a "market corpo- ration" independent of the State.
Eurostat last night defended its ruling.
"Eurostat's advice on Irish Water is based on the infor- mation provided by the Central Statistics Office of Ireland to date," a spokesperson said.