Irish Water may have to open its books to public, says auditor general

Irish Water could be forced to fully open its books to the public.

Irish Water may have to open its books to public, says auditor general

Irish Water could be forced to fully open its books to the public.

The State’s financial watchdog confirmed he has held talks with Government officials about bringing the utility under his control.

Comptroller and auditor general, Seamus McCarthy, revealed the development to TDs, saying changes to Irish Water mean it may no longer be beyond his investigative reach.

When Irish Water was set up, at the start of the decade, it was classed as a semi-State organisation, a label that allowed it to remain off the State’s exchequer books.

Although the utility has provided details on its finances, Irish Water has been outside the scope of the C&AG.

However, asked by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, at the latest meeting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, if the recent changes to Irish Water mean it can now be investigated, Mr McCarthy confirmed that this was under consideration.

While it is not his decision, the C&AG said he has held talks with officials from the Department of Housing and Local Government about the potential move.

“Yes, there has been contact from the Department of Housing and Local Government, but there hasn’t been any change yet.

“I understand it [the C&AG’s access to Irish Water] may change, but I don’t have a decision-making power in relation to it.

“We have been consulted and given our views on the matter, but I am not aware of what decisions have happened since. It would be the department which would have to bring forward legislation in that regard.”

The C&AG was responding to questions from Social Democrats TD, Ms Murphy, who had asked if, given “the nature of that organisation has changed”, Irish Water can now be examined more thoroughly by State financial officials.

Noting that “a lot of money flows through it”, Ms Murphy told the Public Accounts Committee it is in the public interest to ensure there is full transparency on the exact internal financial matters relating to the utility.

The Irish Examiner has sent queries to the Department of Housing and Local Government to clarify if it has decided to draw up new laws to allow Irish Water to be examined by the C&AG in the future.

In addition, the department has also been asked when these new laws will be tabled and when they are likely to be introduced.

However, at the time of going to press, the department had yet to respond to the questions raised by the C&AG’s comments.

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