Today's session was the third meeting of the Joint Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services and it was a continuation of last week's session, Funding, Operation , Maintenance and Development. Presentations were made by; Maria Graham, Colm Lavery and Patrick O'Sullivan from Dept of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and from Dept of Finance,John McCarthy, David Hegarty and Kieran Culhane.
The meeting although technically tedious, presented a number of controversies, some irregularities and many questions. However, there was one irregularity that stood out in the midst the humdrum and spin of high finance. The Committee was presented in a private session with information that EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella sent a letter to Minister Coveney, date 12 Jan 2017. (see Vella letter below).
Members of the Committee did not receive a copy of the letter and it was only after Jan O'Sullivan (Lab) brought it up in the public session that the Chairman Pádraig Ó Céidigh informed the meeting when he said
"In relation to the correspondence from the Commissioner, that was the letter I referred to in our closed session, that we will be making available to everybody. We are just after receiving it so it will be made available to you later this evening or tomorrow"
This seemed at odds with Ms Maria Graham who later said that her department only received the letter on January 12, 2017.
The topic of session was about funding, maintenance and development and if you take into consideration that the Chairman, last week, refused to allow questions which he deemed not relevant, then why did he allow this correspondence?
It is not the first time Mr Vella has tried to influence domestic policies by exerting pressure and leveling treats. He sent a submission to the recent 'Expert Commission' on Domestic Water Charges and was very forthcomingall through last year with his opinions.
As you will see in the second video clip Mr Paul Murphy (AAA) questions Ms Graham's about her agenda. From what we can see he has a point. Is it ethical for a civil servant to give opinions especially since they will be entered into records and may influence proceedings? And again should the Chairman allow such opinions.
Below is a schedule for Committee meetings up until March 13, 2017, when it's submission will be presented to the Dáil. Incidentally this is the first time we have seen this schedule. It has not been presented to the public. It also can not be found on the Oireachtas' official web site. We would be interested to know who set the schedule and indeed who chose the guests.