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Irish water spend €50,000 on staff lunches

NewsBy Martin Grant
Irish water spend €50,000 on staff lunches

IRISH Water has splashed out nearly €50,000 on tea and sandwiches to feed its staff and lucrative consultants who are too busy working to take a lunchbreak.

The controversial utility doesn’t hold back when it comes to forking out the cash to keep hunger at bay for workers.

Figures released to the Sunday World, under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the extent at which Irish Water spends taxpayers’ money on buying lunches.

The Sunday World can reveal how bosses at Irish Water have spent a staggering €46,188 on tea, coffee and sandwiches for its staff and highly-paid consultants in the three years since it was established.

Worryingly, the budget allocated to feed hungry workers continues to increase every year.

A sensible €5,096 was spent on cuisine in 2013 and a reasonable €9,359 was paid for catering in 2014.

However, the food bill has since spiralled and rose dramatically to €31,731 in 2015.

External stakeholders and consultants - which Irish Water will pay €86million to on consultancy, contractors and legal advice – have also been dined.

Despite the massive increase, the utility has defended the amount of money it splashes on feeding its peckish workforce.

Irish Water says that refreshments are provided free of charge when staff and external stakeholders are too busy working that they cannot take a lunch break.

This is despite there being five shops providing a range of sandwiches and food located less than a minute’s walk from Irish Water’s HQ.

“Meetings happen throughout the working day in all of Irish Water’s offices but refreshments are provided only when staff and external stakeholders attending a meeting and have no opportunity to eat lunch,” a spokeswoman for the utility told the Sunday World.

“It is indicative of the busy nature of Irish Water that meetings are often scheduled through lunch breaks.”

Those who are required to “forfeit a lunch break” are given sandwiches made in the canteen.

When we quizzed Irish Water about the significant rise in spending on sambos and tea since 2013, a spokeswoman said workers in the utility were working harder than ever before.

“The overall level of activity within Irish Water has also been steadily increasing since the beginning. Our staffing also increased during that time to roughly 650 today.

“It’s logical that with more work happening with every month that passes and increasing staff numbers, the numbers of meetings taking place will also increase,” the spokesman added.

Irish Water said that 1,200 meetings took place through lunchtime since the establishment of the utility in July 2013 until the end of last year.

The water firm said that an average of 10 people attended these meetings, representing an average cost of €3.80 per person.

Meanwhile, the future of Irish Water remains unclear as formation talks of the next government are set to continue this week.

The issue of water charges are due to be discussed during negotiations between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and several independent and smaller parties.

Fianna Fáil has come under pressure to keep their pre-election promise to scrap the utility.

Fine Gael believes the hated charges should be kept and that Irish Water should be maintained, while Sinn Fein said the charges should be abolished.

A spokeswoman said: “We would not make any comment in relation to that.”