The Water Sector Reform Implementation Strategy, which is published on my Department’s website, is focused on ensuring that appropriate policy and legal frameworks are put in place for Irish Water and the water sector. A key objective is to rationalise the cost of the current service delivery and ensure more efficient operation of water services by moving from 34 water services authorities to a single body; following enactment of comprehensive legislation later this year, Irish Water will, therefore, become the water services authority from 1 January 2014.
Just under €180,000 has been spent to date by my Department on consultancy support which relates to work undertaken by PriceWaterhouseCoopers on the independent assessment of the establishment of a State owned national water utility and assistance in developing the implementation strategy. The implementation strategy is being rolled out under a range of work-streams and is based on ensuring that the available skills within the sector are deployed in creating the new utility and the roll-out of the domestic metering programme. In addition to utilising expertise within the Bord Gáis Group, staff have been seconded from the Department and local authorities to assist in the Irish Water Programme in Bord Gáis. Bord Gáis have also engaged in a process of direct recruitment of external service providers for various aspects of the programme including company establishment, customer service and billing and the water metering programme. This expenditure is an operational matter for Irish Water/Bord Gáis and is not being funded from the Exchequer.
The costs involved are critical to developing the capacity to deliver cost savings and efficiencies in the delivery of water services. It will be a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation in due course to satisfy itself in relation to the appropriateness of costs incurred in the operation of Irish Water as part of the process of setting the tariffs for both the domestic and non-domestic sectors in the future. It is envisaged that the Commission will engage in public consultation as part of this process.