Spotlight turns on Hogan after five-hour probe

The questions now remaining over the spending of €85m on private consultants to set up Irish Water, is how much the Government knew about it and why they failed to provide answers to questions raised by TDs in the Dáil.

The company’s top bosses, who appeared before the Oireachtas environment committee yesterday, put the ball firmly back in the court of Environment Minister Phil Hogan and the Cabinet, who will come under pressure over the issue on the first day back of the Dáil.

Irish Water claims it has been open and transparent by appearing before the committee yesterday, and publishing a breakdown of the spending on consultancy — the source of the entire controversy — in advance of the meeting.

Chief executive John Tierney revealed the total set up cost for Irish Water will be €180m, including €85m in consultancy costs.

About €44m of this is to be paid to IBM; €17.2m to Accenture; €4.6m to Ernst and Young; €2.2m to KPMG; €1m to McCann Fitzgerald for legal services; and €2.9m to A&L Goodbody.

During the meeting lasting over five hours, members never quite got to the bottom of what precisely these contracts achieved.

“We just have to take your word for it that it’s money well spent,” said the Independent TD Richard Boyd Barrett.

Irish Water said these were technical and other experts, who did not need to be employed full time, and therefore were employed on a temporary basis. Rates per day and other details were not supplied.

The company argued it was “made very clear up front” to the Government that they could not set up such a utility company, in the timeframe required without engaging such experts.

“Ever since the outset of Bord Gáis’s submission, they have been clear about the necessity to do this,” said Mr Tierney.

Irish Water began its process of financial reporting to the Department of the Environment in Mar 2013, submitting an outline the its first eight lots of consultant contracts procured.

The list included the three biggest contracts, with IBM, Accenture and Ernst & Young who were awarded contracts totalling €66.6m

While Mr Hogan never denied knowledge of the consultancy spending, his junior ministers who had responsibility for the area, Fergus O’Dowd, said in recent days: “I was not aware of that figure until John Tierney announced it.”

Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen said he was “puzzled” as to why this information was not provided to him when he submitted parliamentary questions, given the department was aware of its since March.

Labour TD Kevin Humphreys, who also submitted a parliamentary questions on consultant fees, said: “It’s frustrating for Dáil deputies who asked questions, to find out that the information was with the Department for that period of time and the first we hear of it is on the radio.”

Representatives from the Departments of the Environment and Public Expenditure and Reform will appear before the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee this evening, and no doubt will be probed on their role in the consultancy fees.

But the focus will remain on Mr Hogan to answer what he knew of the contracts and — more importantly — his role in informing the Dáil.

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