You asked for it.
A comprehensive, fact-laden and intrigue-drenched update on the Irish Water timeline we posted back in January.
The original timeline, which began life as a response to some ‘legals’ from you know who and focused on the Siteserv deal, is now expanded to include the much-bungled events of the last 10 months.
If you only read one exhaustive account of how not to set up a utility company today make sure you consider this one.
November 15, 2006: Construction services company Siteserv, which provides fencing and scaffolding, raises almost €10.5million from its flotation on Dublin’s IEX market and the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in London. Its share price jumped 36 per cent from 0.55c to close its first day of trading at 0.75c. The company’s market capitalisation was approximately €51 million. Siteserv was founded in 2004 by chief executive, Brian Harvey. It has also received backing from Niall McFadden of Boundary Capital. Siteserv acquired Donohue Scaffolding in early 2006. It also owns Rent-A-Fence which provides temporary fencing and barriers to the construction and event management sector.
December 1, 2006: Siteserv announces the acquisition of Holgate Fencing (Ireland) in a cash and shares deal worth up to €19million – its first acquisition as a listed company. Holgate is described as a leading supplier and installer of motorway/road crash barriers and environmental acoustic barriers to the Irish market.
December 6, 2006: Goodbody Stockbrokers names Siteserv as one of three small stocks which it predicts will be leading contenders to deliver value in 2007.
December 22, 2006: Siteserv buys formwork and scaffolding provider Easy Access for €20million.
January 5, 2007: Siteserv leads the Dublin market with shares in the scaffolding and fencing firm soaring almost 18pc in early deals.
January 12, 2007: Siteserv appoints Kevin Gallen as chief financial officer and company secretary.
January 22, 2007: Siteserv posts interim pre-tax profits that rose more than 500% to €2.55million for the six months to October, 31, 2006. It said its revenues grew more than 600% to €16.28million.
July 16, 2007: Siteserv posts pre-tax profits of €5.3million for the year ended April 30, 2007, up from €600,000 in 2006.
August 12, 2007: It emerges that Siteserv’s board has agreed that the resignation of Kevin Gallen, as chief financial officer and company secretary “should be accepted with immediate effect”. Siteserv’s share price drops back down to the flotation price of 0.58. It’s reported this is due to nervousness surrounding the construction sector.
September 6, 2007: Siteserv buys Sierra Communications, a provider of services to the power, telecommunications and civil engineering markets in Ireland, for €46million. It’s customers include NTL, ESB and Sky. Deal involves €41.4 in cash and €4.6 in shares.
September 7, 2007: It’s reported the acquisition will be financed mainly through additional borrowings of €42.9million. Siteserv also announces it had agreed banking facilities of €115million.
September 14, 2007: It emerges that former chief financial officer of Independent News and Media, Colm Nolan, is Siteserv’s new chief financial officer.
October 16, 2007: Competition Authority formally approves Siteserv’s purchase of Sierra.
November 27, 2007: Siteserv acquires Roankabin Holdings, which provides Portakabins to the education and healthcare sectors in Ireland. It’s reported Niall McFadden agreed to buy Roankabin for €4.9million in cash, plus €1million in shares, while another €2million will be paid to its owners over the next three years if financial targets are met.
December 7, 2007: Siteserv posts a 97% increase in operating profit to €6.3million for the six months to the end of October – reportedly due to its recent acquisitions. Revenue rose 118% to €35.5million.
February 5, 2008: Siteserv enters British building market by acquiring a leading UK construction support services group, called Deborah Services Ltd., in a €64million deal.
July 15, 2008: Siteserve ‘defies the downturn in construction to report a 131% rise in pre-tax profit for its latest year to April 30, 2008. The group made €12.25million before tax, compared with €5.3million the previous year.
November 11, 2008: Chair of Siteserv Hugh Cooney is appointed the new chair of Enterprise Ireland. It’s reported he donated €1,000 to Fianna Fáil’s former Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s campaign before the previous general election.
January 30, 2009: Sitserv’s revenue trebles to €128million, for the six months to the end of October, up from €35.5million for the same period last year. Operating profit rose from €6.3m to €13.2m.
July 24, 2009, Irish Independent: Siteserv’s full-year profits fell 24%, with pre-tax profits falling to €9.3million in the 12 months to April.
July 26, 2009: It’s reported Siteserv’s net debt is €149million.
October 2, 2009: It’s reported that Boundary Capital chair and majority shareholder Niall McFadden – who owns 6.7% of Siteserv – has quit Boundary, which he founded, as he battles to repay loans to State-owned Anglo Irish Bank. He still owns 45% of Boundary’s shares and is a guarantor of the company’s debt obligations to Anglo. Boundary’s €38.6m debt facility with Anglo Irish expired on June 30.
December 15, 2009: It’s reported that Siteserv subsidiary, Sierra Communications, has been chosen as the preferred bidder for a €50million, three-year Bord Gáis contract – to provide boiler installation and servicing services to Bord Gáis. RTÉ reports that Siteserv says Bord Gáis and Sierra will go into contract negotiations while a further announcement will be made in first three months of 2010.
December 17, 2009: Profits before tax dropped by 66% at Siteserv, for its first half, or six months to October 31, as its revenue fell by 36%.
January 12, 2010: A subsidiary of Siteserv, EventServ – which is a Dublin-based events services company – announces that it plans to double its existing staff from 50 to 100 over the next six months. EventServ is a supplier of staging, seating, crowd control, at festivals, exhibitions and events, including a Bank of Ireland extraordinary general meeting.
February 7, 2010: Sisk awards a €250,000 deal to Siteserv’s Roankabin to build project offices for the €130million Mater Hospital redevelopment in Dublin. The three-storey, 10,000sq ft building will accommodate the Sisk and Mater Campus Hospital Development teams for three years.
April 7, 2010: Subsidiary of Siteserv, Sierra Communications, announces new contract with Bord Gáis will result in up to 90 new jobs. It’s reported the contract – which will provide for the installation, maintenance and testing of domestic boilers – is worth €60 over three years.
July 22, 2010: Siteserv reports a sharp fall in profits for the year to the end of April in what it called ‘difficult market conditions’. The company said profits before tax and once-off items were €700,000, down from €9.3million a year earlier. Revenue slumped from €228.6million to €151.4million. Siteserv said it had reduced its net debt by EUR4.4million and negotiated a new banking agreement to provide it with greater flexibility.
December 3, 2010: As part of the EU-IMF bailout, in a letter of intent, Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, and Technical Memorandum of Understanding, the then Fianna Fáil/Greens government says that by the fourth quarter of 2011, the government will carry out an “independent assessment of transfer of responsibility for water services provision from local authorities to a water utility, and prepare proposals for implementation, as appropriate with a view to start charging in 2012/2013.”
December 16, 2010: It’s reported that Siteserv’s net debt – as of the end of October – amounted to €148.8million, up from €144.5million at the same stage last year.
February 6, 2010: County Wicklow VEC awards a €500,000 contract to Siteserv subsidiary RoanKabin to build a two-storey building at Coláiste Bhríde secondary school in Carnew. The deal is the company’s third contract with the school in three years.
February, 2011: In Fine Gael’s election campaign manifesto, the party states: ‘As in Scotland we will establish a single state-owned commercial water company – Irish Water – to rationalise the water functions of 34 local authorities. Exchequer funding will gradually be replaced by new charges linked to water consumption above a “free allowance”.’ Fine Gael is subsequently elected into Government with Labour.
March 22, 2011: The final report of the Moriarty Tribunal is published. The Tribunal concluded that Denis O’Brien made payment to then Fine Gael Communications Minister Michael Lowry of £147,000 and £300,000 in the 1990s. It also found Mr O’Brien supported a loan for Mr Lowry which amounted to a benefit equivalent of £420,000 in December 1999. Mr O’Brien won the competition for the State’s second mobile phone licence in 1995 and the tribunal claimed Mr Lowry “secured the winning” of the licence for O’Brien.
While no adverse finding was made against the current Enviornment Minister Phil Hogan, two chapters in the report also show that the tribunal did not appear to accept the account given by Phil Hogan in relation to two events, namely the circumstances surrounding a donation for a Fine Gael golf event and a lunch meeting involving Denis O’Brien.
The tribunal found Mr O’Brien actively courted Fine Gael with a view to increasing his profile with the party and that Esat Digifone’s marketing director, who was also a Fine Gael supporter, Sarah Carey, was instrumental in proposing events Mr O’Brien sponsored, such as fundraising lunches in Carlow/Kilkenny, Dublin Central, Meath, Wicklow, Dublin West, Westmeath, Dublin South East, Dublin North Central, Dublin South West, Limerick East and Dublin Central and several golf classics. Mr O’Brien gave testimony that he never made a political donation for the purpose of securing the licence.
Mr O’Brien’s largest donation was IR£5,000 for the Wicklow by-election in June 1995, for which Mr Hogan was the director of elections.
In relation to this donation, Mr Hogan told the tribunal that it arose from an enquiry made to him by Ms Carey as to whether Mr O’Brien or Esat could be of assistance to the party – prompting Mr Hogan to mention to her the Wicklow by-election fundraising lunch.
But Ms Carey told the tribunal it was her understanding that Mr O’Brien had spoken to Mr Hogan himself and then agreed to make the donation.
The tribunal sided with Ms Carey’s account of events.
A second donation of IR£4,000 was made to the Fine Gael Golf Classic in October 1995. Mr Hogan was chair of the event’s organising committee.
Ms Carey told the tribunal Mr O’Brien specifically instructed there be ‘no advertising at the gold classic’. She wrote a letter to Mr Hogan saying: “I understand Denis has requested that there are no references made to his contribution at the event.”
The tribunal found that bank drafts used for the Wicklow and golf classic payments were “indicative of a desire for secrecy” over the donations.
Before the golf classic, auctioneer Mark FitzGerald, son of former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, said he got a phone call from Mr O’Brien asking him to come to a meeting at Lloyd’s Brasserie in Dublin.
Mr FitzGerald told the tribunal that he was surprised that, when he arrived, Mr O’Brien was sitting with the late TD Jim Mitchell and Mr Hogan. He has said that when he arrived he was asked by Mr O’Brien if he’d heard anything about the mobile phone licence competition, which was then nearing conclusion.
Before he died, the late Mr Jim Mitchell told his solicitor that he had no memory of any such meeting.
Mr Hogan told the tribunal the meeting, as described by Mr FitzGerald, did not take place and if it did, he couldn’t recall it. He said he had no recollection of any meeting.
The tribunal sided with Mr FitzGerald’s version of events, finding that it was “difficult in the extreme to conceive” of any reason why Mr FitzGerald would give false evidence.
June 1, 2011: Environment Minister Phil Hogan announces that water meters are to be rolled out to more than one million homes from early 2012 and that the new water services company will be called Irish Water. He said international experience and that of Irish group water schemes had shown metering and charges would reduce consumption an impact positively on the €1billion the State spends every year on water services.
July 19, 2011: It’s reported that a report on the setting up of Irish Water – carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers and McCann Fitzgerald – is to be delivered to the Department of the Environment in September. It’s also reported that Bord na Móna has expressed its ‘willingness and desire to take on the role of Irish Water’.
July 29, 2011: It’s reported Siteserv’s revenue grew by 11% and remained profitable in its 2011 financial year, despite difficult market conditions. It reported revenue of €168.5million in the year to April 30, 2011, up from €151.4million a year earlier.
September 8, 2011: Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd said an announcement on the establishment of the NewERA project (Economic Recovery Authority) is imminent. NewERA will have three areas of focus – broadband, energy and Irish Water. NewERA will be funded by €2billion raised from the sale of State assets, while it will also receive funding from the National Pension Fund.
December 16, 2011: It’s reported that Siteserv’s revenues to the six months to the end of October grew by 9% to €92million. It’s pre-tax profits rose to €1.1m, from €500,000, compared to the same period the previous year while operating profits rose by 4% to €4.8m from €4.6million. Key contracts agreed during the six months included a contract with RTÉ, AA Ireland and Bord Gáis. It also launched a big customer call centre for BSkyB, Bord Gáis and AA Ireland. But, the Irish Independent reports (on December 17, 2011) that Goodbody Stockbrokers analyst David O’Brien warned that until Siteserv’s €150million debt pile was reduced, investors were likely to ‘remain on the sidelines’.
January 15, 2012: It’s reported that Davy, the Dublin stockbroker, and KMPG are seeking a new owner for Siteserv and it will be sold at a ‘significant discount to its bank debt of €150millon’. A bidding process is understood to be under way and that hundreds of shareholders in the stock – which is now trading at almost zero – are unlikely to receive any payment from the sale.
January 16, 2012: Siteserv says it is exploring a number of strategic and corporate options for discussion with Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo.
January 16, 2012: Phil Hogan says the roll out of water meters will created 2,000 new jobs during the three-year metering installation period. It’s also reported that PwC has argued against ‘embedding’ Irish Water into an existing semi-State agency, saying any ‘perceived or real cross-subsidisation could pose issues for the regulators’.
January 22, 2012: It’s reported that their are divisions between the Coalition partners about the setting up of Irish Water with senior Fine Gael members preferring the creation of a new company – as outlined by the PwC report – while a ‘growing number of Labour backbenchers and senior TDs would prefer to embed the new utility into an existing State agency, such as Bord Gáis, Bord na Móna, the ESB, or the National Roads Authority. It’s reported that the unease in Labour is prompted by concerns among representatives of the 3,600 staff working in the local authority water sector. It’s reported that ‘they feel that workers moving from 34 city and county councils into the new public utility would fare better if their terms and conditions were linked with those of a state agency’. It’s also reported that Phil Hogan announced a further six-week consultancy period.
January 24, 2012: Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd tells the Joint Committee on Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht that nobody will be charged for water until the beginning of 2014. He said there will be a, as yet undetermined, free allowance of water for householders, and after that householders will be charged. He also said the Government will establish a regulator for the water sector.
February 24, 2012: It’s reported Bord Gáis has bid for the task of establishing Irish Water and claimed it can save €120m in start-up costs.
March 9, 2012: The Irish Times reports that Government sources have claimed that the Coalition is leaning more towards Bord na Móna.
March 11, 2012: It’s reported that a group, involving Denis O’Brien, is the front runner to buy Siteserv and that it tabled a bid of €50m for the company. It’s also reported that IBRC, former Anglo, is expected to write off some of the €150million that Siteserv owes Anglo. Several trade buyers and private equity groups have also shown an interest in Siteserv.
March 16, 2012: It’s reported Denis O’Brien has bought Siteserv for €45.4million in cash, with the Siteserv board agreeing to the sale of its business to Millington, an Isle-of-Man-based acquisition vehicle controlled by Mr O’Brien which was established in 2011. The deal is subject to shareholder approval. It’s reported that Siteserv’s directors say they consider the deal to be ‘fair and reasonable as far as shareholders are concerned’. Sitserv says as part of the disposal plan, IBRC has agreed to accept payment of an amount which is less that the full amount owed by Siteserv to it.
March 17, 2012: It’s reported that IBRC has agreed to write off €100m of the roughly €150m debt it is owed by Siteserv, and that the bulk of the €45.4m being paid by Mr O’Brien will be used to satisfy the outstanding debt obligation, leaving the business to be acquired on a debt-free basis. It’s also reported that Siteserv estimates that it will be left with just under €5million in cash which will be distributed to shareholders, with them expected to get €3.92c for every share they own in the group. The group’s chief executive, Brian Harvey, will remain with the business, as will group finance director Niall Devereux. Mr Harvey will receive nearly €800,000 for his 20.2 million shares.
March 17, 2012: It’s reported that the sale represents a 70% haircut on the €150m in outstanding debt IBRC is owed by Siteserv. Without this agreement, the proposed disposal would not be capable of implementation and it is likely that shareholders would not have realised any return on their investment, said Siteserv. Shareholders including chief executive Brian Harvey, Chris Neate and John Neal, will receive €4.96 million, or €3.92 per share, representing a premium of 96 per cent on the previous Thursday’s closing share price, or a premium of 26.9 per cent based on the average price of Siteserv over 12 months. This is surprising as it’s generally believed with insolvent companies, equity is normally wiped.
March 29, 2012: Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton warns her government colleagues ‘to review how they interact with businessman Denis O’Brien’, after he featured alongside Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the New York Stock Exchange.
April 1, 2012: It’s reported Australian hedge fund Anchorage Capital offered a higher price (€52m) for Siteserv than Denis O’Brien’s €45m but that ‘elements of the offer were considered less attractive then the O’Brien bid’. It’s reported that ten companies were involved in the initial bidding process with some underbidders unhappy with the sale process. It’s also reported that ‘the hedge fund would have required more extensive due diligence of the entire Siteserv group, which is made up of several companies’.
April 1, 2012: It’s reported that the government now believes that Bord Gáis Networks, rather than Bord na Mona or an independent new company, should run the new water infrastructure.
April 2, 2012: It’s reported French company Altrad claimed it was denied the opportunity to make an offer for Siteserv – saying it had been prepared to offer €60 million for the Irish firm but that it was ‘effectively denied the opportunity because its representative was told the Irish group was not for sale’. Ray Neilson, a senior manager with Altrad, told the Irish Times that he had emailed Mr Harvey four times between last year and shortly before the deal was agreed with Mr O’Brien but that he was told the firm was not for sale. Siteserv rejects the claims.
April 3, 2012: It’s reported that law firm Arthur Cox acted for Siteserv and Millington in the deal. The report states that the law firm referred the matter to an internal committee that deals with conflict of interest issues before it gave it the go-ahead to act for both sides.
April 15, 2012: It’s reported that Denis O’Brien owed Anglo Irish Bank €833.8million on foot of personal and corporate loans just after the lender was nationalised in 2009, making him its then sixth largest borrower. Between 2009 and 2012, he reduced his borrowings to under €500m. It’s reported his dealings with Anglo go back to when he founded 98FM and that his relationship with the bank continued as he bid for Ireland’s second mobile phone business.
April 17, 2012: It emerges that Irish Water is to be a part of Bord Gáis with the installation of water meters beginning in October and that Phil Hogan expects the programme to install water meters in more than one million Irish households would be 90-95 per cent complete by the end of 2014.
April 17, 2012: Phil Hogan insists Irish Water will not be sold off to the private sector. It’s also reported that the Government will first finance the installation of water meters with a €450million loan from the National Pension Reserve Fund.
April 18, 2012: It’s reported that Bord Gáis chief executive John Mullins is to quit the company in December. Mr Mullins is reported to have close links with Fine Gael and was ‘one of many’ businessmen to accompany Enda Kenny on a recent trip to China. In relation to the decision to award the tender for Irish Water to Bord Gáis rather than Bord na Móna, Phil Hogan said that ‘the outside assessors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, had made the decision based on a long list of criteria’. It’s also reported that he said 150-200 contracts would be awarded around the country to carry out installation of water meters for bundles of 5,000 to 6,000 households.
April 22, 2012: It’s reported that Environment Minister Phil Hogan snubbed an offer by Siemens to finance water meters that could have saved over €350m.According to the Sunday Independent Siemens offered to foot the €810m-plus cost of installing meters in 1.3 million Irish homes back in 2010, but Mr Hogan didn’t pursue the option when he took over at the Department of the Environment. It’s reported that Siemens proposed funding the fitting of water meters”through an investment to be paid back through savings made in the multibillion-euro cost of providing water services once the meters were installed. It’s reported that Mr Kruckow made the offer publicly in 2010 and sought discussions with the then Finance Minister, the late Brian Lenihan. It’s reported that Phil Hogan’s predecessor John Gormley was “enthusiastic” about the Siemens offer at the time but it wasn’t progressed once Mr Hogan became Environment Minister. The Sunday Independent reported that, when asked why it hadn’t pursued the Siemens offer, the Department of the Environment didn’t supply an explanation, but said it ‘had chosen the Irish Water option after 12 months of discussions with stakeholders as “the optimal organisational form for water services delivery in Ireland”‘.
May 23, 2012: It’s reported the Competition Authority approves the sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien’s company Millington, with Siteserv saying the proposed disposal was “classified by the Irish Competition Authority as a media merger”.
June 22, 2012: “It’s reported that Bord Gáis has hired former government press secretary Eoghan Ó Neachtain to be public affairs manager with Bord Gáis. Mr Ó Neachtain previously served as spokesman for Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny. He is also a former ESB corporate affairs manager.
July 29, 2012: Michael McNicholas, of NTR, says the water company Celtic Anglian Water (CAW) – which NTR has a shareholding – is interested in installing water meters to Irish households. (Mr McNicholas is later appointed CEO of Bord Gáis Éireann and becomes a board member of Irish Water).
September 24, 2012: Irish Water says it will take two and half to three years to fully install water meters in Ireland. Earlier in 2012, Phil Hogan said work would be complete by the end of 2014.
September 25, 2012: It’s reported that Bord Gáis has yet to seek tenders for the provision of meters or for their installation. John Mullins told RTÉ radio the procurement notice for the water meters would go out to European tender next month.
October 6, 2012: Siteserv’s Chief Financial Officer Niall Deverux leaves Sitserv to become the chief financial officer of Topaz. Devereux had been appointed CFO of Siteserv in May 2009.
October 18, 2012: Siteserv hires AIB’s managing director of corporate finance Alan Doherty to be the company’s chief financial officer.
October 21, 2012: It’s reported that it will be another four years before water meters are fully installed in Ireland, according to a 900-page blueprint which maps out Irish Water’s plans and which was seen by the Sunday Independent. This means it will be late 2016 before water meters are installed in every home with a public water supply – at least two years later than the Environment Minister Phil Hogan originally said it would take. It’s also reported that Bord Gais will advertise for senior management positions, including managing director and human resources director, in Irish Water next month.
October 28, 2012: It’s reported that the new head of Irish Water will be appointed directly by the board of Bord Gáis rather than by ministerial appointment.
January 11, 2013: The Government publishes the Water Services Bill 2013 which will allow for the introduction of water charges from January 1, 2014.
January 29, 2013: Bord Gáis announces that Dublin City Manager John Tierney, from Terryglass, Co. Tipperary, is to be the managing director of Irish Water, starting in April. It’s reported that, over his 35 years in local government, he’s worked in nine different local authorities across the country, including Galway County Council, Kilkenny County Council, Limerick City Council, Limerick County Council, South Tipperary County Council and North Tipperary County Council. His full salary is to be €200,000 with no bonuses or allowances on top of this, Irish Water said.
February 25, 2013: It’s reported that 400 jobs installing water meters will be given to graduates, the unemployed or staff of small businesses. It’s also reported that Irish Water is tendering for companies to provide 1.05 million meters and boundary boxes (which house the meters), along with contractors to run the metering programme and a customer call centre. The contracts are expected to be awarded in May.
March 17, 2013: It’s reported that former AIB chief Colm Doherty is a director of Siteserv.
April 18, 2013: It’s announced that NTR’s Michael McNicholas is to become Bord Gáis’s new group chief executive.
May 12, 2013: It’s reported that Siteserv is one of nine bidders on the shortlist for the contract to roll-out water meters in Ireland, and that they’ve until May 27 to make their final offer.
May 24, 2013: It’s reported Cork-based Abtran wins Irish Water’s call centre contract, creating 400 jobs. It’s reported that Abtran has been operating Revenue’s property tax helpline and that earlier in May it had to suspend a worker suspected of attempting credit card fraud. Abtran’s other clients include insurer Aviva, energy company, Electric Ireland, and TV and broadband provider Sky. It also has State contracts with the National Transport Authority, the Revenue Commissioners and Eflow, the National Roads Authority’s electronic tolling service.
June 7, 2013: Managing director of Water John Tierney says the first domestic water meters will be installed next month with a national roll-out beginning in September. He said the new semi-State body hoped to have 100,000 water meters installed by the end of the year.
July 17, 2013: It’s reported that assistant secretary for water at the Department of the Environment Mark Griffin – the official behind the establishment of Irish Water, has been named as the new secretary general at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. He’ll take up the new position in September.
July 24, 2013: Irish Water announces that it will have eight regional offices – in Dublin, Mullingar, Castlebar, Cavan town, Donegal town, Kilkenny city, Limerick city and Mallow.
July 27, 2013: The three regional contractors appointed to manage the installation of meters across six regions are GMC/Sierra Ltd, J Murphy & Sons Ltd, and Coffey Northumbrian Ltd.
August 2, 2013: It’s reported that Irish Water said that each contractor – GMC/Sierra, Coffey Northumbrian and J Murphy & Sons – would be responsible for hiring local staff and would receive meters in batches of 5,000. Not until the 5,000 meters were installed in line with the contract would a further batch be issued. The three regional contractors will install between 125,000 and 375,000 meters each over a three-year period. Each meter costs €500 to install, meaning contracts are worth at least €62m each. The total cost of the metering contract is €539m, excluding VAT. The country has been divided into eight regions or 125,000 households each, and six of the eight regional contracts have already been awarded. GMC/Sierra won three in the north west, Dublin City and Midlands; Coffey Northumbrian will install the meters in the north east; while J Murphy & Sons will work in the west and south west. It’s reported the final two contracts will be awarded in the next two weeks.
August 9, 2013: The first water meter is installed at a home in Rockfield Grove, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.
November 7, 2013: Siteserv’s Sierra is close to securing $30m worth of state contracts in Papua New Guinea, where Mr O’Brien’s Digicel is the largest mobile operator.
November 13, 2013: It’s reported that Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has promised to include Irish Water under the Freedom of Information Act.
January 3, 2014: It’s reported over half of the senior management team in Irish Water has been drawn from local authorities and government departments. Just four of the nine-strong team were externally recruited. Some 203 staff have been recruited, of which half are from local authorities, Bord Gais and the Department of the Environment. At senior management level, four of the nine posts have been appointed from local authorities, one from the Department of the Environment, one from Bord Gáis Éireann, two from consultants firm RPS and one who has worked for a number of civil engineering contractors.
January 9, 2014: John Tierney tells Seán O’Rourke on RTE that Irish Water has spent €50m on consultants last year.
January 10, 2014: Irish Water defends how it recruited senior staff. John Tierney said two former executives with consultancy firm RPS – which advised Dublin City Council on the Poolbeg incinerator project when he was Dublin City Manager – had left RPS by the time Irish Water employed them, and he said they were employed following an ‘open recruitment’ process. Irish Water’s head of asset management Jerry Grant was the managing director of RPS until August 2012. Elizabeth Arnett was head of project communications at RPS until December 2012. She’s now head of communications and corporate services in Irish Water. It’s reported Grant resigned from RPS in August 2012, while Arnett resigned in December 2012. They both worked for the Irish Water Programme, the project that was put in place to set up Irish Water. Poolbeg has so far cost the State almost €100million with more than €30million to RPS, even though the original contract was for €8.3million. The EU found the contract between Dublin City Council did not conform with EU law. It is to be terminated at the end of January 2014.
January 10, 2014: It emerges that among the consultants who were paid €50m in consultancy fees included IBM, Accenture, Ernst and Young, and Oracle.
January 11, 2014: A spokesman for Irish Water it was unlikely to to give a detailed account of which consultants were paid and how much would ever be disclosed because of “commercial sensitivities”. He said that situation would not change, “even if we were subject to Freedom of Information”.
January 11, 2014: John Tierney tells Newstalk Radio that up to €2.2billion would be saved between now and 2021 by more efficient water services. In relation to the €50m spend on consultants, Phil Hogan tells KCLR radio in Kilkenny: “These particular costs have been openly tendered for and they have been verified by the regulator. This is going to be a very cost-effective and lean operation.”
January 12, 2014: It’s reported that Tensions are mounting within the Coalition over the latest revelations, with questions being raised about a lack of transparency and the extent of Mr Hogan’s knowledge. Mr Hogan took ministerial responsibility for Irish Water away from junior minister Fergus O’Dowd after the legislation to set it up had been completed. It’s also reported that sources close to Mr Hogan insist the minister was unaware of the spending on consultancy. While he was aware that €100m was being spent establishing the agency, he was not informed that €50m of this was being spent on outside consultants. It’s reported Mr O’Dowd first heard about the cost when he heard Mr Tierney being interviewed by Seán O’Rourke on RTE.
January 12, 2014: A confidential 20-page report drawn up in September 2012, and obtained by RTE, shows the Government expected Irish Water would be established using Bord Gáis’ “existing operational capacity” in the areas of IT, asset management, customer billing systems, and other functions. The report sets out how Irish Water would be implemented over the following five years as a subsidiary of the Bord Gáis Group but it makes no reference to any use of external consultants to create or operate key IT or other systems.
January 13, 2014: Junior environment minister Fergus O’Dowd says Irish Water will be subject to Freedom of Information, retrospectively, but not until it is fully established.
January 14, 2014: The Department of the Environment issues a statement saying Mr Hogan was aware of the overall set up costs of Irish water. But, the statement states, arrangements were put in place to monitor the costs by the Department of the Environment and Irish Water. It adds that the minister had asked the energy regulator to review these costs. Irish Water managing director John Tierney tells the Environment Committee he has never spoken to Mr Hogan or Mr O’Dowd about the agency’s budget. Mr Tierney also defended consultancy costs including legal services of €85m to the committee, saying since the outset, Bord Gáis had been clear that they were always going to need them to set up Irish Water.
The Committee was told that they had submitted a budget for the setting up of Irish Water to the Department of Environment in September 2012. That budget was for €150m with a further contingency of €30m. In their submission they also outlined correspondence with the department on expenditure since then.
Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen and Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley asked if there was ministerial approval for their budget. John Tierney said he had never spoken to Ministers Hogan or O’Dowd about the budget, adding the department would answer about their internal processes.
The committee is told Irish Water will spend €85m on external special service providers or consultants, including legal services, by April 2015.
IBM will receive €44.8m, Accenture will receive €17.2m, Ernst & Young will get €4.6m, while KPMG and Financial Panel Works will be paid €2.2m. Two legal firms will receive €3.87m, while €13.3m will be paid to another 18 contractors.
It’s reported that the Government will bring Irish Water under Freedom of Information legislation – for a period. It’s also reported that it’s likely to be withdrawn from FOI once it’s an independent entity and has built up a track record of accessing funding itself, which is planned to happen in 2017, similar to how Bord Gáis is excluded.
A series of parliamentary questions reveals that €9.7m was paid to consultant to carry out a range of reports on policy issues for ministers. Environment Minister Phil Hogan had the highest bill, spending €3.4m on 31 reports since Mar 2011 – including €179,584 paid to PricewaterhouseCoopers for “consultancy services” on the establishment of Irish Water. A further €51,789 was paid to the Economic and Social Research Institute for a report on “the affordability aspects of the provision of water services in Ireland”.
It’s reported Irish Water awarded four major contracts without putting them out to public competition. Irish Water used exemptions in EU procurement rules to award contracts for computer services to four suppliers already working for parent company Bord Gáis, including CORE Software based in Mitchelstown in Cork, IBM in Dublin, and two UK-based companies, Syclo International Limited from Surrey and ClickSoftware Europe Ltd with an address at Burnham Bucks. The reason they were not open to competition was because Bord Gais said the contracts would not be delivered on time due to the technical challenges involved.
January 15, 2014: John Tierney tells the Public Accounts Committee almost 300 workers at Irish Water may get performance-based bonuses, worth an average €7,000 each – just hours after Taoiseach Enda Kenny rules out any bonuses for Irish Water staff. The committee also hears Irish Water had a County Managers’ Group to oversee the transition of services from local authorities to Irish Water, and this cost €5.7m.
January 16, 2014: Mr Kenny says Irish Water will be fully transparent and accountable to the Dáil and will be “subject to the full rigours” of the Freedom of Information Act from the company’s inception. “It will be a national flagship of high quality and integrity. As leader of the Government, I say that Uisce ireann will be wide open in terms of transparency, accountability and justification of expenditure. Every deputy on all sides and none and Oireachtas committees will have the opportunity to see that this happens. It is in all our interests that this be so,” he said.
It’s reported that Irish Water never received questions submitted by politicians about its spending – because they were not passed on by officials at the Department of Environment. The startling admission was made by a senior civil servant, who cited “workload issues” as the reason.
January 17, 2014: It’s reported that Irish Water spent €20,000 on the Irish Water logo.
January 19, 2014: €6,000 was spent on Irish Water staff to attend a laughter yoga workshop for team-building in Croke Park in 2013.
January 21, 2014: Phil Hogan tells the Dáil Environment Committee his department spent almost €16m last year in relation to the changeover of responsibility for water services from the 34 local authorities to Irish Water – separate to the company’s budget of €180m, of which €85m will be spent on external service consultants. The figure includes the €5.7m spent on water services transition office in each local authority and a national office; €7m on a survey of where the meters should be located; €628,000 on programme management office in the department; €760,000 on the regulator; €328,000 on staff engineering services and €321,000 on additional staff; and €179,000 on a PricewaterhouseCoopers report.
January 21, 2014: Taoiseach Enda Kenny says John Tierney is the right man to head Irish Water, saying: “We have to have consistency and a very high standard and Mr Tierney is heading up the utility called Irish Water to deliver that. I have every confidence that he will do his job as expected.”
January 22, 2014: The Taoiseach declined to respond to a claim by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that former local authority employees with pensions had joined Irish Water at a senior level and were in line for bonuses.
January 23, 2014: It emerges that more than one third of the Irish Water staff recruited so far worked in local authorities and 29 staff are earning over €100,000. It’s also revealed that almost 100 staff could earn future performance-related bonuses of between 14% and 15%.
January 26, 2014: Confidential documents obtained by RTÉ’s This Week reveal that local authorities indicated their co-operation with the establishment of the State’s new public utility, Irish Water, may be linked to assurances over jobs, pensions and the duration of service-level agreements. The unpublished, 40-page document, dated 5 December 2012, was prepared by the Irish Water steering group.
January 27, 2014: Professor John FitzGerald of the Economic and Social Research Institute [a brother of Mark Fitzgerald (see above)] says Irish Water could incur extra costs of between €1.5bn and €2bn, through the employment of over 2,000 staff that it does not need.
January 29, 2014: Phil Hogan writes, in the Irish Independent, how Prof FitzGerald’s ‘wild assertions have no basis’.
February 6, 2014: Irish Water denies that their contractors are damaging existing pipes while installing new meters following reports that Dublin City Council has had to fix 250 leaks in homes where meters have been installed at a cost of 136,000 Euros, stating that all the repairs had been to existing leaks and that the Council’s costs will be covered by Irish Water.
February 14, 2014: It is reported that Irish Water will spend 3.2 million Euros on postage, advertising and design. 1.8 million Euros have already been spent with 1.45 million Euros to be paid out later this year.
March 10, 2014: A paper submitted by An Bord Gais criticizes the Government’s January decision to retrospectively apply the FOI to Irish Water with effect from July 17th on the basis that it would present an unfair administrative burden and could lead to unnecessary costs.
March 16, 2014: It is reported that Irish Water paid the sum of 579,000 Euros to consultants for a single report regarding water metering of apartments.
On the same day it is also announced that Irish Water will be seeking the PPS numbers and bank account details of householders along with the PPS numbers of their children.
May 3, 2014: Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and former managing director of AIB, Colm Doherty appointed to the board of Topaz Energy Group, the controlling interest in the group having been acquired by Denis O’Brien in January in a deal that again involved the writing down of bank debt. Sean Corkery, the chief executive of Siteserv, is also a board member of Topaz.
May 7, 2014: Irish Water proposes a free water allowance for families of 30,000 litres per year.
May 8, 2014: Former Northern Irish Water boss Trevor Haslett says that the free yearly water is unlikely to see families through even the first quarter of the year.
July 2014: Environment Minister Phil Hogan nominated as Commissioner-Designate for the EU Commission.
July 30, 2014: Draft price plan published by Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) proposes a price increase of 1/5 more than was claimed in May 2014. The St Vincent de Paul expresses concern at the high charge per unit.
August 1, 2014: Bord Gais hires a third firm of public relations consultants to work alongside two existing PR companies to improve communications by Irish Water.The firm hired is Terry Prone’s The Communications Clinic.
August 3, 2014: An independent review of Irish Water’s estimated consumption projection of 21,000 litres of water a year for children carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) concludes that there is ‘every chance’ that the estimate is wrong.
August 11, 2014: Irish Water’s 1.9 billion running costs reported to be more than twice the average costs of water companies in England and Wales. 29% of these costs comprise staff salaries, a percentage three times higher than in England and Wales (10.5%) and over twice as high as in Northern Ireland.
August 13, 2014: It is announced that Sierra has won the Republic of Ireland contract for the installation and provisioning of prepayment electricity meter installation services for PrePay Power.
August 17, 2014: Reports of attacks on Irish Water workers.
August 25, 2014: Fire at Irish Water facility in Sligo occupied by GMC/Sierra.
September 7, 2014: Disclosure of a document dated October 21, 2014, signed by Phil Hogan and authorizing the expenditure of 50 million Euros on IT (32 million Euros), customer billing and registration (12 million Euros) and support services (8 Million) for Irish Water, with an additional 9.5 million Euros being expended on legal advice.
September 10, 2014: Phil Hogan confirmed as EU Commissioner for Agriculture.
On the same day It is reported that the Data Protection Commissioner is examining Irish Water’s policy on how it collects and uses personal information, including PPS numbers.
September 12, 2014: It is reported that water meters are being installed at a rate of one every 30 seconds with 400,000 meters already in place.
September 19, 2014: High Court Judge Patrick McCarthy grants GMC/Sierra, represented by Jim O’Callaghan SC, an interim injunction against nine water meter protestors.
September 21, 2014: 2,000 protest in Dublin against water charges.
September 27, 2014: Five arrested after water meter protest against GMC/Sierra in Raheny.
September 30, 2014: It is disclosed that Paudie Coffey, Minister for State at the Department of Environment, has hired Irish Water board member and former Fine Gael Councillor Hilary Quinlan as his personal driver at a salary of 15,000 Euros per annum. Quinlan sees no conflict of interest, stating: “You tell me one party out there who doesn’t look after their own. I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s politics.”
On the same day High Court Judge Max Barrett lifts the injunction against the nine Irish Water protestors granted by Judge Patrick McCarthy on the 19th September 2014.
On the same day the CER announces that it will generally accept Irish Water’s charging proposals, published in July 2014, with some changes, such as halving the amount of time for rebate but extending the period during which all water bills will be capped at an estimated rate and the discount period for those whose water is undrinkable. The free allowances will remain the same at 30,000 litres per household and 21,000 litres per child annually.
October 1, 2014: Billing for domestic water begins. However, two-thirds of homes do not yet have meters installed.
On the same day, Hilary Quinlan resigns as a director of Irish Water in order to “remove[s] any doubt or confusion of any potential conflict of interest”.
On the same day, Elizabeth Hourihane, of Malbaun, Passage West, Cork, is given leave to commence proceedings challenging the constitutionality of the decision to set up Irish Water, on the basis that the government failed to take account of public and common good acted wrongly.
On the same day, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, speaking in the Dail, draws attention to the fact that under the 1997 Taxes Consolidation Act all Government Ministers who maintain a second residence will pay reduced water charges.
October 2, 2014: Michael Noonan announces that the second residence water charges reduction for Government Ministers will be removed.
October 3, 2014: Phil Hogan defends sending the employment CVs of three of his constituents to Irish Water.
On the same day it is announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is suing Irish Water over the water standard in Letterkenny.
October 8, 2014: Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, speaking in the Dail, calls for an amendment to the legislation to include an ‘ability to pay’ clause, something strongly opposed by the government. Taoiseach Enda Kenny acknowledged a general public ‘lack of clarity of explanation and understanding’ regarding Irish Water and the charges imposed by it.
On the same day there are complaints about ‘excessive Garda force’ and numbers being used against anti-water meter protestors.
Sources: RTÉ, Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Irish Independent, Business World, Sunday Independent, Phoenix magazine, Sunday Business Post, Irish Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Tribune.