PAC to again discuss Irish Water

Irish Water Chief Executive John Tierney

The issue of spending at Irish Water will again come before the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) later today to discuss accountability within the new agency.

Yesterday, the agency revealed it will spend nearly €86m on consultants by the middle of next year.

Chief executive John Tierney revealed the total set up cost for Irish Water will be €180m, including €85m in consultancy costs.

About €44m of this is to be paid to IBM; €17.2m to Accenture; €4.6m to Ernst and Young; €2.2m to KPMG; €1m to McCann Fitzgerald for legal services; and €2.9m to A&L Goodbody.

During the meeting lasting over five hours yesterday, PAC members never quite got to the bottom of what precisely these contracts achieved.

“We just have to take your word for it that it’s money well spent,” said the Independent TD Richard Boyd Barrett.

Questions will also be asked of Environment Minister Phil Hogan regarding what he knew of the consultants' contracts and the level of spending at the agency.

The PAC is holding a special meeting with Irish Water's CEO, the Secretary General of the Department of the Environment and the regulator at 6:30pm this evening.

"We will deal with the issue of transparency and accountability," said Fianna Fáil's John McGuinness, chairman of the PAC.

"We believe that the audit of Irish Water should be conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General, thereby giving an input by the Public Accounts Committee and oversight by the public in terms of how taxpayers' money is spent."

Meanwhile Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has refused to say whether the €86m in consultancy fees at Irish Water is money well spent, describing it as a matter for the regulator.

"We have set up the independent regulator to make that decision," Minister Howlin said.

"He is in the process of doing that now.

"So rather than me, as a member of Government making that decision - and I always keep a very close eye on it - this is a commercial semi-state that must have some commercial independence.

"We have a regulator with the capacity and the authority to do that. Let's hear from the regulator in terms of whether every cent of this was properly spent."

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