Mick Wallace: O'Brien buying Siteserv very questionable

How businessman Denis O’Brien took possession of the company that won the contract to install meters for Irish Water is “very questionable” a TD has claimed. 

Independent deputy Mick Wallace also alleged in the Dáil that the tycoon’s close political connections may have been instrumental in his bid to buy Siteserv.

“The very nature by which this gentleman ended up in possession of Siteserv is very questionable.

“There will be some unease about the fact that Denis O’Brien’s close political links may have been instrumental in his bid to buy Siteserv, the company that won the state contract to install water meters for Irish Water.

“He did a deal with IBRC where €100m of debt that Siteserv owed to....IBRC, which was really the taxpayer, was wiped off.

“Two higher bids for the company that would have earned the State more money were rejected. A former Fine Gael minister was chairman of IBRC at the time the deal was approved.

“The chairman of Siteserv, who I will not name, has acted as an advisor to the National Treasury Management Agency and sits on the board of Enterprise Ireland. As Siteserv has won various state contracts, it raises the question with regard...the revolving doors that exist between the corridors of power and governmental bodies and it further undermines the Taoiseach’s assertion that he wants to separate the ties between government and big business,” Mr Wallace said under parliamentary privilege.

The TD called for more transparency regarding the collation of information on the amount of state contracts given to companies in which particular individuals were involved with.

At one point, Leas Ceann Comhairle Micheál Kitt warned Mr Wallace about talking “about a person who is outside the House and not here to defend himself.”

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said some of Mr Wallace’s comments were “not appropriate” and amounted to a “very worrying set of assertions as opposed to a question.” 

He said the Government did not “blacklist people from being able to apply for particular contracts.

“In terms of procurement. we procure in accordance with the law.

The politicisation of the procurement system would be quite improper and unlawful.

“Public contracts are awarded following a transparent and competitive process conducted in compliance with very stringent national and European law.”

The minister also said he would begin talks with unions next year on a possible reversal of some pay cuts.

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