Embattled Environment Minister Phil Hogan has been accused of misleading the Dáil over the massive €180m start-up costs for Irish Water.
The charge was made by Fianna Fáil environment spokesperson Barry Cowen after he claimed Mr Hogan told a Dáil committee in Nov 2012 that the launch bill would be €10m.
Mr Cowen said it has since been revealed that the key Government Economic Management Council had agreed the €180m figure three months before Mr Hogan gave evidence to the Oireachtas environment committee.
“Either Minister Hogan deliberately lied about how much taxpayers’ money was being spent on setting up Irish Water, or he accidentally gave a gross underestimation to the Oireachtas Environment Committee in November 2012,” said Mr Cowen.
“Either way, we now know that when Minister Hogan publicly stated that the cost would be €10m, he knew that €180m had already been committed three months previously.
“I believe that Minister Hogan is deliberately trying to confuse people to save his own political skin as this controversy rumbles on.
Mr Hogan hit back by insisting Fianna Fáil was being misleading with a “selective quote”.
He said the €10m figure referred only to the costs that would be provided by his department, not the overall figure.
Mr Hogan accused opponents of trying to smear Bord Gais workers.
Mr Hogan admitted start-up costs for Irish Water were “substantial”, but said the ESB had spent €100m on a billing system in 2005.
He accused opposition parties of twisting the facts to suit a political agenda.
Mr Hogan came under sustained criticism in the Dáil over his failure to get a grip on the launch costs for the metering monopoly, which is to spend €86m on outside consultants.
He said that Irish Water would produce huge savings for the State.
“The Government simply cannot continue with the current situation with over €1bn of taxpayers’ money being spent annually on water services, but with 40% leaking into the ground,” said Mr Hogan. “Furthermore, there are significant additional requirements for capital investment in water to meet our EU water quality requirements.
“The establishment of the company will deliver major savings of approximately €2bn over the next eight years.”
Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said Irish people were now expected to pay for water, while access to it is seen as a right in the developing world.
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