Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (103, 438)

Barry Cowen

Question:

103. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total cost of the Water Services Transition Office in 2013 and the estimate for 2014; the number of staff employed; if the costs are paid directly to the Local Authorities Members' Association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5017/14]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

438. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if any staff at the Irish Water Services Transition Office were seconded from existing roles in the public service or local authorities; if so, the number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4922/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 438 together.

The Water Services Transition Office (WSTO) was established by the County and City Managers' Association to assist with the implementation of the water sector reform process. The role of the Transition Officer is to support the delivery of the water sector reform programme on behalf of the local government sector, by co-ordinating the involvement of the 34 County and City Councils on a range of matters including standardised data gathering, financial analysis, HR negotiations, negotiation of SLAs and transition planning, all of which were required while daily water services operations were maintained. The WSTO prepared a detailed business case setting out its proposed role, functions and funding requirements. A Memorandum of Understanding was agreed between my Department and the WSTO setting out the common understanding between the parties in relation to the role and functions of the WSTO during 2013 and 2014 and the agreed funding mechanism.

€5.7m funding was provided to the WSTO in 2013. Some €1.7m was paid in respect of the staff from local authorities seconded to work in the dedicated transition office in two locations - Dublin and Waterford. Some €3.5m was paid in 2013 for the recoupment of costs for an average of 2-3 staff in individual local authorities who liaised with the transition office in collating and analysing the information necessary to support the transfer of functions, assets and liabilities to Irish Water. The balance of approximately €0.5m was incurred by the WSTO on non-pay related costs. Of this €278,285 was paid to a variety of companies who provided specialist advice on legal, financial, health and safety and IT aspects of the transition as it impacted on local authorities. The balance of €213,252 was incurred on general office running costs for services including rent, utilities and security. The 2014 budget for WSTO is €1.6m.

During 2013, the average monthly WSTO staff complement across both locations was 17.7 staff, ranging from 21.1 staff at its highest (August 2013) and 5 staff at its lowest (January 2013).  At year end there were 13.6 staff assigned to the WSTO. In addition, an average of 2-3 staff in individual local authorities liaised with the transition office. The WSTO managed the overall budget during 2013 and submitted claims for recoupment of costs on behalf of the 2 office locations and the 34 local authorities to the Department. Funds were paid to Fingal County Council who in turn recouped the individual local authorities.