herald

Thursday 23 March 2017

Utility in hot water over €5m consultancy spend

Barry Cowen
Barry Cowen

Irish Water splashed out €5m on outside consultants six months after water charges were suspended, it has emerged.

The under-fire utility paid out more than €826,000 a month, says a new report.

Irish Water was effectively placed in limbo by the Government on May 1.

But that didn't stop it from spending close to €3,000 a month on outside public relations contracts despite its future being uncertain.

Public relations firm Murray Consultants was paid a total of €16,866.

At the same time, nearly a million people who paid out €144m in charges have been given no assurances they will be reimbursed.

Legal

Documents obtained by the Sunday Independent reveal that Irish Water spent €774,848 on so-called "business-change" services between May 1 and October 31. The payments include €406,268 to professional services giant Ernst & Young and another €123,570 to accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Legal advice cost the utility €340,830 while spending to "ensure the highest standards of governance" in areas such as data protection, information security and business analysis" cost €113,277.

Irish Water said in a statement that it was considered "more cost-effective" to employ third-party contractors as required rather than on a permanent basis.

Costs

It added that such costs represent just 1pc of its annual operating costs.

But critic Barry Cowen, Fianna Fail's environment spokesman, said that legislation is urgently needed to ensure that Irish Water is fully accountable for its spending and more transparent.

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