That Dáil Éireann:
— the critical role water plays in our social and economic infrastructure and the right of all citizens to access a safe, clean and sustainable water supply;
— the need for a comprehensive national water investment programme to improve, protect and maintain supplies to homes and industry throughout the country;
— that investment should specifically target ongoing leakage issues and the quality of water supplied to homes; and
— the vital part that a strong water infrastructure plays in attracting investment and promoting economic growth;
— the scandalous overspend in the €100 million it has cost for the creation of Irish Water to date, in particular the €50 million going to consultancy fees;
— the complete lack of transparency in the establishment of Irish Water, as it does not currently fall under freedom of information legislation;
— the fact that Irish Water places a new layer of bureaucracy on top of the existing water services system with excessive spending on recruitment and consultancy fees which duplicate existing expertise;
— the financial pressures that democratically accountable local authorities face in being stripped of their water assets while being burdened with pension bills;
— the fact that home owners will face water charges from January 2015 despite the lack of a national audit of the water infrastructure and investment programme to ensure people are paying for a service that delivers; and
— the Government’s decision to rush Irish Water legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas without proper oversight or scrutiny;
rejects any moves towards the privatisation of Irish Water;
calls on the Government:
— to conduct an immediate value for money review to clarify the spending levels of Irish Water on consultancy fees; and
— to end the duplication of resources between Irish Water and local authority staff; and
— for the immediate extension of freedom of information legislation to cover Irish Water including its establishment period; and
— for a complete national audit of the water system and the roll out of a comprehensive water investment program to bring the service up to standard.
This motion is tabled in response to the ongoing failure of the Government to be accountable about Irish Water, its failure to be open and transparent, and its absolute and deliberate shrouding in secrecy of the spiralling and out-of-control costs and spending in the establishment of Irish Water. Let there be doubt that if it were not for John Tierney's slip-up on Sean O'Rourke's radio programme last week, the public, the taxpayers and every Member of the Oireachtas would remain in the dark about the tsunami of spending endemic in Irish Water.
The setting up of Irish Water was a concept of the Fine Gael Party when it was in the Opposition; I believe it is on page 10 of the NewERA document which was produced in 2010. In Government, Fine Gael and the Labour Party proceeded to put this super quango in place as quickly as possible. They appointed Bord Gáis, seemingly due to all its internal expertise, central billing system, customer care base and customer base throughout the country. These major internal components were seemingly far superior to what might now be termed the "duked" Bord na Móna. Bord Gáis was used as the launch pad, against the advice of the PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, report sought by the Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan, which advised the opposite. The Minister was well able to micromanage that report, which cost €180,000, into the bin in his office.
What has ensued could be described as grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented. We are in GUBU territory here. This body was handed €11 billion worth of taxpayers' assets on 1 January. Preceding that, it was handed €1.1 billion in taxpayers' cash. There was €500 million for water metering, €180 million for set-up costs and €400 million was supposedly committed by Deputy Phil Hogan to the local authorities, but it was taken from them at the end of last year when the rug was pulled from under them. Then one wonders why Donegal was faced with such a dilemma last week in trying to strike a rate and set a budget to provide the type of services, commitments and goods that a local authority is expected to provide to those whom it serves.
The Minister, Deputy Hogan, says he should not be expected to micromanage €180 million. It is not as if we asking Phil the price of the new gym in the headquarters of Irish Water. We are talking about €85 million, almost 50% of the set-up cost of €180 million. The Minister and his Government want us to believe that he asked only one question, "How much do you want lads?" When they said, "Can we have €180 million?", he replied, "Sure you can. Collect it on the way out".