Better Energy Homes Scheme Expenditure

Questions (137)

Michael Lowry

Question:

137. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing issue with regards to the non-payment of a community based organisation (details supplied) which has been carrying out insulation works under the warmer homes scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties that this is causing for the organisation in question; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that jobs will be lost if this payment is not advanced as a matter of urgency; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this action jeopardises the future of this scheme in the county and subsequently adversely impacts on older and vulnerable people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21606/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme on behalf of the Department. The scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to those that are vulnerable to energy poverty and who live in privately-owned dwellings. The scheme is delivered through a combination of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), augmented by a panel of private contractors in order to ensure national coverage. Measures available include draught proofing, attic insulation, lagging jackets for hot water tanks, low energy light bulbs and cavity wall insulation.

In 2012 the Warmer Homes Scheme delivered over 12,000 energy efficiency measures to energy poor homes under the scheme, including 624 homes in County Tipperary. Last year, CBOs delivered upgrades to almost 7,000 homes in local communities around the country. I am informed by SEAI that under this scheme, the CBO concerned submitted a request for funding to the SEAI in January 2012. The CBO proposed that they would retrofit 204 homes at an average cost of €1,224.15 per home, giving a total funding envelop of €249,725.85. This was agreed and a contract was signed on that basis. When the final request for payment was made in November 2012, it became apparent that the CBO had in fact completed 183 homes (rather than the 204 homes agreed) at an average cost of €1,364 (rather than the agreed average cost of €1,224.15 per home). Furthermore, the CBO has informed the SEAI that they completed 34 homes where the cost of delivery was significantly above their agreed contract price. As a formal contract was in place, the SEAI was required to pay the CBO in accordance with the rates agreed and so they were paid for 183 homes at a rate of €1,224.15 per home, giving a total payment of €224,019.45. Any shortfall is therefore a matter for the CBO to resolve as they operated outside of the terms of their contract.

The SEAI did not give the CBO approval to divert from the standard contract conditions, which were issued to all CBOs in 2012. There was no agreement that a 10% variation was available to this, or to any other, CBO. Moreover, I am informed that the SEAI did not instruct the CBO to complete larger homes and incur higher costs beyond the parameters of the contract. In fact, in order to assist CBOs and to avoid penalising eligible homeowners with large homes, CBOs were expressly requested to pass larger homes to the SEAI for delivery under the private contractor model under the Scheme. I understand the CBO is now proposing to charge vulnerable home owners in order to recoup their overspend, even though the SEAI contract stipulates that these services must be delivered free of charge. SEAI has emphasised to me that under no circumstances should the CBO charge or propose to charge vulnerable home owners for these services to make up a contract shortfall which the company incurred.

The SEAI is required to ensure that all CBOs operate within their contract conditions to ensure good governance and consistency of service delivery nationwide. The SEAI gave clear guidance on the contracts for 2012 and CBOs were advised on numerous occasions that they were required to work within the budget price agreed in their contract and to contact the SEAI at the earliest opportunity if they were having difficulty meeting these requirements. CBOs are responsible for managing their own budgets within the requirements of the contract, which is supported by the SEAI who have put in place a resource to assist CBOs with budget management. Within the confines of the rules of the scheme, the SEAI would very much welcome the continued participation of the CBO in question. I would also like to reassure Deputy that coverage of vulnerable homes in the county will continue to be provided through private contractors should the services of the CBO be withdrawn pending resolution of this issue.

Broadband Services Provision

Questions (138)

Seán Kyne

Question:

138. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will consider partnership arrangements with Eircom and other telecommunications companies which are undertaking upgrade works to the fixed line fibre cable broadband network in that his Department would finance the extension of the network in areas which are in relatively close proximity to the locations of the planned upgrades. [21812/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 360 of the 30th April last. I have nothing further to add to that response.

Animal Welfare Issues

Questions (139)

Clare Daly

Question:

139. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the policy that exists in relation to putting dogs down in the State's pounds; and if he has received any complaints regarding the dog pound in County Wicklow having a significantly higher than average rate of putting dogs down. [21758/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Control of Dogs Act, 1986 sets out the legislation regarding how dogs which are seized or detained by local authorities or surrendered to local authorities are dealt with. It is a matter for each local authority to establish and maintain shelters for their particular areas. The majority of local authorities, including Wicklow County Council, operate cooperatively with dog welfare organisations and together they work to reduce the number of dogs entering the local authority pound system being put to sleep.

Nationally, the total number of dogs being put to sleep has reduced significantly over the years, from a figure of 27,570 in 1998. In 2012 the total number of dogs put to sleep was 4,904, which itself was a 20% reduction on the 2011 figure. The Wicklow dog shelter does not have a significantly higher than average put to sleep rate compared to other dog shelters; the rate in Wicklow is about half the national average. Full details of dog control statistics, including the figures for dogs put to sleep in Wicklow, are available on my Department’s website: http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/DogControl/.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Status

Questions (140)

Clare Daly

Question:

140. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department has approved the application from Fingal County Council for the second phase of the sewerage pipeline upgrade for Rush, County Dublin. [21594/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 176 of 28 February 2013. The position is unchanged.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions (141)

Michael P. Kitt

Question:

141. Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will make funding available to the North Tipperary County Council for the provision of social housing (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21601/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In June 2012, my Department invited each City and County Council to submit proposals for the purchase or construction of new social housing units over the period 2012 – 2014 based on priority and need. North Tipperary County Council submitted twenty nine proposals in relation to the purchase of houses at various locations within the county and listed twelve construction projects for consideration of funding. Based on the priority afforded to the proposals by the Council, approval issued in July 2012 for the purchase of two housing units at a cost of €390,000 and the construction of two units in Borrisoleigh at a cost of €326,517. A project at Coalbrook Developments, Ashbury, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary was not listed in the proposals submitted by North Tipperary County Council. It will be a matter for the Council to submit a proposal under any future call for proposals for the purchase or construction of properties.

Electoral Divisions Establishment

Questions (142)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

142. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress made to date on the establishment of an electoral commission; the main function of the proposed electoral commission; if he has considered the composition of the commissioners to reflect impartially; when he expects legislation to be published on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21622/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Programme for Government includes a range of political reform measures a number of which are in my area of responsibility as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. Many of the measures have already been implemented through legislation enacted in the last two years. Legislation enacted in 2011 provides for a reduction in the number of TDs, reduced spending limits at Presidential elections and time limits for the holding of bye elections. Legislation enacted in 2012 strengthens the political funding regime in Ireland and provides for the payment of state funding to political parties being conditional on parties having at least 30% women and 30% men candidates at the next general election. The Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Act 2013 was signed into law in March and provides for 158 TDs to be elected to represent 40 constituencies in the next Dáil.

The Government legislation programme includes the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2013 which will provide for amendment of the European Parliament Elections Act 1997 to transpose directive 2013/1/EU which amends arrangements for EU citizens exercising their right to stand as a candidate in European Parliament elections in a Member State of which they are not nationals but in which they are residing; and for other amendments to the electoral acts relating to the date for additions to the postal voters register supplement list, the circulation of Referendum Bills to Post Offices, the register of electors in Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford and the review of European Parliament constituencies. Also in the legislation programme the Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to be progressed later this year, will implement more commitments in the Programme for Government. Arising from the Action Programme for Effective Local Government I established a Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee in November 2012 to review and make recommendations on local electoral area boundaries in time for the 2014 local elections and my Department is providing administrative support to that committee.

Following these tasks, I will be addressing the Programme for Government commitment to establish an Electoral Commission to subsume functions of existing bodies and my Department. Establishment of an Electoral Commission will be a major body of work. Issues for consideration include international best practice, the Commission's structure and functions, who it reports to, its relationship with other bodies currently involved in electoral administration, and the approach to be followed in relation to the extensive legislation that will be required, as well as practical matters including staffing and funding arrangements.

Environmental Protection Agency Governance

Questions (143)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

143. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas the latest report and accounts for the Environmental Protection Agency. [21647/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under section 50 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must submit its accounts annually to the Comptroller and Auditor General for audit and the audited accounts must then be presented to the Minister to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. Section 51 stipulates that a report on the performance of the EPA’s functions during each financial year should be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after the end of that year, but not later than six months thereafter. The most recent Annual Report and Accounts for the EPA, relating to 2011, were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 8 November 2012. The Annual Report & Accounts for 2012 will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as they become available, in accordance with Sections 50 and 51 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992.