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Monday 24 April 2017

Irish Water unclear on whether it can collect 2015 bills

Simon Coveney has responsibility for water charges Picture: Tom Burke
Simon Coveney has responsibility for water charges Picture: Tom Burke
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Irish Water says it is unclear to the company whether it will ever be able to collect unpaid water bills from last year, following the decision to suspend charges made by the new Government in May.

State-owned Irish Water made a profit before tax of €17.4m in 2015, but has admitted that income has dropped this year, especially after the General Election.

With bills scrapped, at least temporarily, increased State support or borrowing will now be needed to make up the shortfall. The profit generated last year has been earmarked to be reinvested in fixing water infrastructure.

Financial results for 2015, published yesterday, show that Irish Water collected €144.2m from customers in the first full year of collection up to the middle of April. However, the results through the year varied significantly.

Irish Water collected €30.5m in its first three-month "billing cycle" in 2015, rising to a peak of €42.3m in the last three months of last year, before dropping sharply in 2016.

In its official accounts, the State-owned utility insisted that households that have not paid all of their water charges are still liable for unpaid water bills.

That's regardless of the new Government's decision to suspend charges.

"As at the date of approval of the financial statements, all amounts invoiced are legally due to Irish Water."

However, the company's directors admitted that the question of whether Irish Water will ever be able to collect unpaid water bills is unclear.

"It is unclear what the impact, if any, will be on the ultimate collectability of receivables from domestic customers as at 31 December 2015," a note to the financial report states.

The financial results show total revenue last year at Irish Water was €851.1m.

Direct cash from government of €399m was the biggest source of income, followed by domestic charges of €323m and commercial water charges totalling €219m.

In a Directors Report, the Irish Water board said they believe that the company will continue in operation as a public utility and continue its investment programme following the work of the External Advisory Body and the Expert Commission that have been set up to review funding options.

Meanwhile, accounts for Irish Water's parent company, Ervia, paid a dividend to the Exchequer of €151m from its gas networks operations.

Irish Independent

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