Under questioning from Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen TD, the Environment Minister Alan Kelly has admitted that the cost of ongoing subvention of Irish Water from the Local Government Fund is higher than previously known. In the Dáil earlier today, the Minister admitted that ongoing delays in transferring assets to the quango did cost local authorities an additional €47 Million for 2014.
Deputy Cowen commented, “The picture around the subvention of Irish Water just gets murkier and murkier by the day. I have repeatedly asked for clarity on the scale of back door public funding of Irish Water. Repeatedly I have hit a brick wall with a Minister who talks transparency but offers none when it comes to this quango. Indeed, I have had to resort to submitting Freedom of Information requests for basic information around the actual costs of Irish Water, which is a ludicrous situation for the primary Opposition Spokesperson on the Environment.
“This morning, we enjoyed a small victory forcing the Minister to spell out the 2014 costs for the delay in transferring assets from local authorities. There will also be another cost for 2015 because certain assets have not yet been transferred. However, the information we extracted was not encouraging – this latest development has cost local authorities an additional €47 million from the Local Government Fund.
“Basically the government is taking money from local authorities to pay Irish Water’s bills in order to help it pass the Eurostat test. The transfer of assets is being delayed beyond the original timescale to allow for the test to pass. Including the commercial rates payments the government is now siphoning off almost €110m from the Local Government Fund to indirectly pay for Irish Water. The figures revealed this morning comes only a day after the government stated the vital Eurostat Test would be delayed by over two months until the summer.
“On top of the €110m secretly being used to fund Irish Water, another €400m is directly subventing it. In total some €510m is being diverted from the local government fund, set up to finance local services, in order to keep this super quango going. There is something rotten at the heart of this accounting exercise and in the end it is tax payers who are losing out.
“Fianna Fáil has asked for the full publication of the information provided to the CSO for the purposes of the Eurostat Market Corporation Test and we have sought this information under Freedom of Information as well. The Minister has repeatedly withheld pertinent information from the Dáil – if he has also withheld the same information from the CSO, we very quickly move into very serious territory for this Minister and this Government.”