Article taken from RTE.ie
The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has said the veil of secrecy surrounding Irish Water is unacceptable and the Comptroller and Auditor General should audit its books.
John McGuinness said significant questions still need to be asked of Irish Water executives who are appearing before the PAC today.
Mr McGuinness said Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan needs to micro-manage Irish Water spending, saying it is scandalous that he does not.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Mr McGuinness said there needs to be more scrutiny of the company’s spending.
He said: “The Comptroller and Auditor General does not audit the books of Irish Water and I believe that he should.
“If that were the case then Irish Water would come before the PAC on a more regular basis and we would see the Comptroller and Auditor General, for example, carrying out value for money reports for various projects or contracts that are awarded. That is essential.”
Executives from Irish Water will appear before the PAC today for a second day of questioning over the company’s spending.
They faced questions yesterday at the Oireachtas Environment Committee about the €50 million the company spent on consultants last year.
Meanwhile Minister of State at the Department of Finance Brian Hayes has said he does not believe that bonus entitlements for staff at Irish Water are “justified”.
Irish Water Chief Executive John Tierney said yesterday that staff at the company could be paid performance bonuses, but there is a pay freeze until 2016.
Mr Tierney also said his salary was €200,000, which does not include a performance bonus.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Hayes said the Government had a “firm policy position” on bonuses, which effectively “knocks out” such payments for the semi-State sector.
He said the issue of bonus entitlements was a new one and he would wait to hear the justification for them from Irish Water officials.
But Mr Hayes said he did not see how they would be justified.
He said you could not have a situation where there was one rule for one new semi-State and another for other more established bodies.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said she was astonished to hear news of Irish Water staff getting bonuses.
Ms Burton said she believed there was no room for bonuses in the current climate.
Ms Burton said: “We are in a slow recovery, getting people back to work but I don’t see any room in this country for going back to a bonus culture and I would certainly advise that and I think so would the rest of my cabinet colleagues.”
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said last night he did not micro-manage what was happening at Irish Water.
Mr Hogan told RTÉ’s Prime Time that the Government set down the policy position and the overall amount of money that had to be spent to establish Irish Water.
He said TDs had an opportunity to question executives of Irish Water on a regular basis and both he and the Irish Water executives expected the highest transparency.
However, Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming, who is a member of the PAC, said he did not accept that Mr Hogan did not have more details on spending by the company.
He accused the Government of a lack of transparency and of cronyism in its dealings with Irish Water.
“It is not credible that the minister didn’t ask what the €180m set-up costs were about and if he didn’t ask it’s even more worrying again. There is no openness provided for in this legislation,” he said.