Bonus payouts at energy and water watchdog total €300,000

The agency that regulates water charges increased its bonus payments last year for staff to almost €300,000.

Bonus payouts at energy and water watchdog total €300,000

According to the 2014 annual report published by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), bonus payments to staff last year totalled €297,720, representing an increase of more than €20,000 on the bonuses of €273,798 paid out in 2013.

Over the past six years, the regulator has paid out almost €1.6m in staff bonuses in a scheme that has the approval of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, as well as that of the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources.

Numbers employed by the regulator last year increased to 87 from 78. The extra headcount contributed to total pay for employees rising to €5.59m from €5.46m.

The report shows that the CER more than doubled its surplus last year to €5.9m.

The surplus arose chiefly from the regulator increasing its revenues by 19% to €20.87m from €17.58m, helped mainly by the levy income from industry jumping by more than €3m to €19.7m from €16.5m.

The CER is responsible for setting prices for semi-state companies, including Bord Gáis, and most recently, Irish Water, for which it has come under fire from opposition politicians and interest groups.

Between 2009 and 2013, the CER paid out bonus payments of €1.27m.

The performance-related pay model was introduced when the regulator was established in 1999 and does not apply to senior management.

The performance-related pay element is reserved for lower grades and has strict criteria, and is not guaranteed.

The CER has said recently that “staff are specialist and highly marketable and retention of expertise can be supported by such a pay model.”

CER’s costs are not paid for directly by the taxpayer, but are funded by the levy on “industry participants”. If the CER records a surplus, it means that it will be looking for less levies the following year.

Consultancy and legal fees incurred by CER fell to €6.1m from €6.4m.

The amount spent on consultancy services in the economic and financial area almost doubled to €1m, and the spend in technical consultancy services also increased to €1.16m from €414,000.

The report also showed that chairman Garrett Blaney, who was appointed in February last year, received total pay last year of €204,000. That included a sum for ‘basic pay’ over a period of 10-and-a-half months of €144,000.

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