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Thursday 2 October 2014

Council to add €620k to bill as question marks remain over incinerator

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

Published 27/02/2014 | 02:30

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Dublin City Council's CPO'd land bank for Poolbeg Incinerator off Pidgeon House Rd yesterday.

DUBLIN City Council plans to spend more than €120,000 a month on the Poolbeg incinerator project – despite significant question marks hanging over its future.

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The council has identified spending of €620,000 up to the end of June on site security and monitoring, professional advice and other costs, the Irish Independent has learnt.

The projected spend comes as external consultants employed to examine spending on the waste-to-energy plant have said oversight of the project was still not "fit for purpose".

Chairman of Dublin City Council's audit committee Professor Brian Norton of DIT said a report from Capita Consulting meant it could not provide assurance that the necessary safeguards were in place.

"It (the audit committee) is still not in a position to provide assurance to the city council that current project governance and risk management arrangements for the WTE (waste-to-energy) project are fit for purpose for a large and complex project of this nature," he said in a letter to councillors.

Consultants found there was no established overall budget for the remainder of the project, an 'absence' of a single business case, and a 'lack of consideration' of risks attached to the project.

So far, more than €95m has been spent on Poolbeg, and city manager Owen Keegan has said that no decision on its future can be taken until a ruling is delivered by the EU Commission on complaints over state aid and procurement rules.

Concerns about the huge spending emerged in 2010 and 2011 in reports from the Local Government Auditor, which found that financial management on the project was "weak".

It found that one firm of consultants, RPS, was paid more than €28.4m compared with the original contract of €8.3m. In excess of €95m has been spent over more than 10 years on the incinerator.

Cllr Gerry Breen (FG), a member of the council's audit committee, said management could not escape responsibility for the enormous spending.

"Council management cannot escape responsibility for the financial disaster of over €90m being spent on the project to date. If this was a private sector project, heads would roll," he said.

AUDIT

"These findings should form a catalyst for strengthening of the audit function in Dublin City Council and other local authorities, and point to the need for a Local Authority Public Accounts Committee."

In response to Prof Norton, the council said a budget of €620,000 was now in place, which assumed that construction would begin on July 1 next. A 'comprehensive report' on the business case had been considered by managers of the four Dublin local authorities – which will be served by the incinerator – and a 'lack of reporting' would be addressed by regular meetings of a project team to oversee the project, it said.

Irish Independent

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