Saturday 10 December 2016

Water firm splashes out €28,000 on taxis in three years

Martin Grant and Gordon Deegan

Published 28/12/2015 | 02:30

The controversial utility has spent a total of €28,375 on taxi fees over the last three years (Stock image)
The controversial utility has spent a total of €28,375 on taxi fees over the last three years (Stock image)

Irish Water has spent more than €28,000 on taxi fares since the utility was established.

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The controversial utility has spent a total of €28,375 on taxi fees over the last three years.

In 2013, the utility spent €2,242 on fares, followed by €14,151 in 2014 and €11,982 this year. These figures cover the period from July 2013 to the start of December 2015.

The details of taxi costs were released to the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act.

While the spend on taxi fees is substantial, there is no contract in place between Irish Water and any one taxi operator.

Officials at Irish Water have moved to defend the significant amount it has spent on taxis.

"This figure is comparable to any organisation similar in size and scale to Irish Water," a spokesman said.

Irish Water said its policy was that staff use taxis only when absolutely necessary.

"Taxi journeys should be undertaken only where there is no option available on public transport, taking into account all business requirements.

"Company policy is that all employees are encouraged to use public transport where possible and use taxis only when absolutely necessary.

"Travel by taxi for members of staff is therefore approved only for carrying out company business, without entailing excessive cost for the journey undertaken and where no suitable public transport option is available," said a spokesman.

The utility said that workers largely paid their taxi fares upfront and then claimed the amount back as an "itemised business expense". It said all taxi expenses were vouched.

The utility previously came under fire for other aspects of its spending. In 2014, it was revealed that more than €55,000 of taxpayers' money was spent on a state-of-the-art gym for Irish Water staff at its headquarters at Colvill House on Talbot Street in Dublin.

Employees are saving a fortune by using the gym and are charged a cut-price rate of just €20 to join.

A total of €38,000 of the gym's costs was covered by Irish Water, with the remainder covered by Bord Gáis, which shares on office with the water utility.

Meanwhile, local authorities across the country last year transferred more than €12.7bn worth of assets to Irish Water.

The figure is revealed in a series of local government audit reports which showed that Dublin City Council alone transferred €1.9bn worth of assets to Irish Water.

Irish Independent

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