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Incinerator plans up in smoke after vote

This week's vote by Dublin City Council almost certainly marks the end of the controversial Poolbeg incinerator.

Monday night's vote by Dublin City Council to abandon the project makes it very unlikely that the facility will ever see the light of day.

With councillors having voted to scrap the project and city manager Owen Keegan only a wet day in the job, whatever political or administrative support the incinerator may once have enjoyed has long since evaporated.

Even before Monday night's vote it was abundantly clear that the Poolbeg project was in serious trouble. Local residents had complained to the EU that one of the Poolbeg contracts breached European state aid and public procurement rules.

The complaint to the EU centred on a contract between Dublin City Council and two companies, RPS from the UK and COWI from the UK, to provide the Council with "consultancy" services and to represent it in its negotiations with Covanta, the American company which was to build the €450m incinerator.

BUDGET

Originally budgeted to cost "only" €8.3m, the total bill on the RPS/COWI contract eventually soared to €32m. Although the EU Commission wrote to Dublin City Council last April calling on it to scrap the contract this only happened in January.

The money paid to RPS and COWI represents almost a third of the €96m which has been spent so far on the Poolbeg project.

If, as now seems likely, the plug is pulled on Poolbeg most, if not all, of this money will have to be written off. This would represent an appalling waste of public money in these financially straitened times.

So just who is responsible for this mess?

Current Dublin City manager Owen Keegan has only been in his job since September 2013 so he can't be held responsible for the debacle.

It's a different story for his predecessor John Tierney who was Dublin city manager from 2006 to 2013, the period during which all the key decisions were made on the Poolbeg project.

While Mr Tierney may not have been personally responsible for the dramatic increase in costs he failed to pull the plug at an early stage and avoid those costs escalating.

And has Mr Tierney faced any repercussions for the disaster that the Poolbeg project has now become? After all this was something that happened on his watch. Not a bit of it.

Far from being hauled over the coals, Mr Tierney was effectively promoted, being appointed managing director of Irish Water in January 2013.

This was despite the publication of a damning report by the Local Government Auditor in December 2012 which criticised Dublin City Council's "weak" and "not adequate" management of the Poolbeg project.

WARNED

AND NOW IN HIS NEW ROLE MR TIERNEY WILL BE PRESIDING OVER A €6BN INVESTMENT PROGRAMME DESIGNED TO BRING IRELAND'S WATER SYSTEM UP TO SCRATCH OVER THE NEXT DECADE.

APPOINTING SOMEONE WITH MR TIERNEY'S RECORD TO PRESIDE OVER WHAT WILL BE THE COUNTRY'S LARGEST PUBLIC INVESTMENT PROJECT THIS DECADE HAS CERTAINLY RAISED A FEW EYEBROWS.


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