Friday 20 April 2018

Top government officials charged with tackling the flooding crisis did not meet for up to six years - watchdog

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Top government officials charged with tackling the flooding crisis did not meet for up to six years, a watchdog has revealed.

During the period from 2009 until the middle of last year there were five major incidents, two people died in floods and thousands of homes, farms and businesses were destroyed.

Inspectors in the Comptroller and Auditor General's (C&AG) office found senior officials in control of "flood risk and response" did not sit down together from 2009 until July 2015.

They were part of the high-level oversight body called the Interdepartmental Co-Ordination Group which met from 2006 to 2009 but did not sit down together again until last summer.

A second group of government experts were charged with assessing and managing flood risk based on the study of river catchments but they did not meet for four years up to November 2014.

The C&AG said: "While (Office of Public Works) OPW established structures to monitor project implementation, it was found that, in the case of the pilot projects, there was a lack of clarity over the precise roles of those oversight bodies."

From 2005 to 2014 329 million euro was spent on flood defences and research and another 430 million euro is being spent over the next six years on similar prevention projects.

But the C&AG warned money was still being spent without using all the available comprehensive analysis of flood risks.

"In order to derive maximum value from the limited funds available, it is essential that funding allocation decisions are evidence-based," it said.

"However, 12 years on from the report of the Flood Policy Review Group and eight years after the EU Floods Directive, substantial capital expenditure continues to be incurred on an annual basis, without the full benefit of the comprehensive analysis and strategic plans."

The C&AG also found there were no detailed project budgets in the Office of Public Works for four pilot flood relief projects.

Estimates ran to 3.5 million euro and they ultimately cost 8.9 million euro.

The C&AG's office said smaller scale pilot projects are potentially useful if novel or innovative technology is being used and cost estimates are uncertain.

But it warned: "Nevertheless, it is difficult to exercise cost control over individual project elements and the project as a whole, without a detailed project budget."

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