OPW flood delays criticised

Flood-relief pilot projects have overrun by millions of euro, with some still incomplete almost a decade after they were due to finish, it has been revealed.

A litany of failures by the OPW over flood planning and prevention was described as “alarming” at the public accounts committee (PAC) yesterday.

Four pilot flood projects which were begun in 2005 have run almost 200% over-budget and two of these have yet to be finished, despite having a completion date of 2007. These budget and time overruns were described as a “learning” process by OPW chairwoman Clare McGrath.

The committee heard that an interdepartmental group set up to oversee the national co-ordination of flood-risk management and flooding response met between March 2006 and September 2009 but did not meet again up to July 2015.

A steering group established to oversee the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management flood programme met between May 2009 and November 2010 but did not meet again up to November 2014.

It was revealed national flood risk- and flood-hazard maps should have been submitted to the European Commission by March 2014. Maps for just 50 of the 300 identified flood prone areas have so far been submitted.

Ms McGrath told the PAC that maps could have been submitted before the 2014 deadline but “these would have been indicative maps only” and the OPW “did not consider it to be of benefit to the EU to report based on these maps for the sake of compliance”.

The revelation that pilot projects which were first estimated to cost €3.5m have already run to €9.1m was described as shocking and alarming by PAC chairman Sean Fleming. “What was so wrong with your original indicative costs? Or you might explain how you got it so far wrong?

“Obviously the €6m difference has had to be cut from other worthy projects so you might talk about that,” he asked Ms McGrath.

She said one of the reasons for the pilots was “to determine what the costs might be and it is through the learning on the pilots we determined costs which then inform the national Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management plan.”

Citing the River Lee project, Mr Fleming said the contract value was €1.048m but the CNAG report showed that €2.199m had been spent.

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