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Irish Water was rushed into paying €2.6m to recruitment agencies

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John Tierney, MD Irish Water,with former Environment Minister Phil Hogan

John Tierney, MD Irish Water,with former Environment Minister Phil Hogan

John Tierney, MD Irish Water,with former Environment Minister Phil Hogan

Irish Water spent over €2.6m on recruitment agencies due to the tight timeline of its establishment, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the semi-state said it paid recruitment agencies just over €2.6m to hire 443 employees.

The State quango currently has 543 employees, with 20 having left since its establishment, meaning that the 443 employees recruited represent just under 80pc of its total workforce since establishment at a minimum.

The spend is relatively cheap per person compared to industry averages. However, the controversial quango said that the reason why it was necessary to use recruitment agencies initially was because Irish Water did not have a HR department when it was set up.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water said: "A full complement of staff had to be in place to take over the running of water services in January 2014 - in May 2013 there was only one employee, CEO John Tierney." She said that, because "the time frame did not allow for the establishment" of a HR department, the use of agencies was the most logical solution and "also offered best value for money".

She added: "Following the one-off recruitment process, Irish Water was in a position to no longer use recruitment agencies from March 2014 and since then the HR team has hired 120 employees.

"In Irish Water HR there are 17 staff and recruitment functions are carried out by five members of staff in conjunction with other duties."

Positions were first advertised to local authority staff, and then publicly if the interview process "did not yield a suitable candidate."

The average spend breaks down at just under €6,000 per employee. The latest figures showed that the average salary for employees at Irish Water is €69,200 - meaning that agencies would have taken a cut of under 10pc of salary per employee. Industry averages would typically be between 10 and 18pc.

Sunday Indo Business