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€148m in unspent water metering funding must be immediately reallocated – Ó Broin

15 July, 2016 - by Eoin Ó Broin TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Water Eoin Ó Broin TD has called for the €148m in unspent funding allotted for the domestic water metering programme to be immediately reallocated to other areas earmarked for capital expenditure by Irish Water.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“This week a parliamentary question response from Minister Coveney said that the savings of about €148m accruing from the capital metering programme can be re allocated to other Irish Water capital investment projects. This confirms what the Minister had previously stated on the 30th of June in front of the Housing, Planning and Local Government Select Committee that:

“There is an under-spend of up to €148 million which has the potential to be reallocated.

“There is a sense of urgency in re-allocating these monies. We have heard off the record that Irish Water’s parent company Ervia is currently negotiating a six month extension to the original water metering contract. It is alleged that the Board of Ervia is soon to ratify this extension.

“I will be writing to both Minister Coveney and Ervia in an attempt to clarify this claim. It is outrageous that money is continuing to be spent on domestic water metering.

“Given that Ireland is currently undergoing infringement proceedings for a failure to implement the Urban Waste Water Treatment directive and that water infrastructure is crumbling, this funding would be better spent in addressing these issues as opposed to continuing with this controversial programme.

“Sinn Féin has consistently said that water meters were the wrong use of €500m. This money should have been invested in fixing the water infrastructure which is the main source of water wastage. The Minister must direct Irish Water and Ervia to halt this wasteful spend of taxpayer’s money at least until the future of water and sanitation service delivery is clear.” 

Notes: See PQ question and response below.

Question No.   341 
Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil: 
To the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government:

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total underspend from the Irish Water metering programme; and if these funds can be reallocated to other areas of capital expenditure by Irish Water in 2016 and 2017.. 

- Eoin Ó Broin. 

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 12th July, 2016. 
Ref No: 21249/16 

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney) 

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. This includes the domestic water metering programme. 

The domestic metering contracts, awarded in 2013 had the objective of installing 1,050,000 domestic meters over a 3 year programme, which started in August of that year. Ministerial consent was given to a budget of €614m including VAT for this purpose. I understand from Irish Water that the expected capital expenditure by August 2016 will amount to €465m, which will deliver circa 870,000-880,000 meter installations. As such, savings of about €148m will accrue on the capital metering programme. Up to 180,000 meters included in the original programme will not be metered at this stage, for a combination of health and safety reasons, service complexity or other technical reasons. 

The Programme for a Partnership Government reflects the overall commitment to a capital investment of €5.5 billion to end 2021 as set out in Irish Water’s business plan, a copy of which is available within the Oireachtas library. Within this context, Irish Water has made initial proposals to my Department on the potential use of savings on the domestic metering programme to include work on priority non-domestic meters upgrades and the urgent provision of strategic water and wastewater infrastructure to enable priority development lands to be serviced where housing provision can most effectively contribute to resolving the current housing deficit. This re-orientation of funding requires Ministerial consent and regulatory approval from the Commission on Energy Regulation, processes for which have commenced. 

Future phases of the metering of domestic premises will be prioritised along with other investment needs based on cost benefit assessment and policy considerations relating to the future decisions on billing and charging. Decisions on such investments will be made under the regulatory regime whereby the Commission on Energy Regulation approves the Water Services Capital Investment Programmes.

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