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Staff at Irish Water regulator enjoy bonus payments of €238,885 in spite of losses more than doubling

By Gordon Deegan

The agency that regulates Irish Water paid out €238,885 in bonus payments to staff in 2016 in spite of losses more than doubling at the regulator.

According to the 2016 annual report just published by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), the bonus payments to staff in 2016 follow bonus payments of €342,656 in 2015.

In 2014, €297,720 was paid out in bonuses and this followed €273,798 paid out in 2013.

Over the past eight years, the CER - since renamed the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) - has paid out almost €2.1m in bonuses to staff in a scheme that has approval from the Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform along with the Dept of Communications, Climate Change and Environment.

Numbers employed by the energy regulator increased from 86 to 90 in 2016 and staff costs reduced from €6.5m to €6.36m.

The annual report shows that the CER decreased its bonus payments to workers as revenues declined by 14.4% from €16.34m to €14.9m.

The chief factor behind the drop in revenues was license income dropping from €15.8m to €14.2m.

The CER's expenditure totalled €16.2m and this resulted in losses more than doubling going from €535,000 to €1.295m.

The CER is responsible for setting prices for semi-state companies, such as Bord Gais and Irish Water.

The annual report states that one of its key achievements during 2016 was delivering savings of €165m for customers through a review of Irish Water costs.

The report states that it drove efficiencies at Irish Water by requiring the utility to reduce operational costs by 20% between 2015 and 2018 while delivering better outcomes for customers.

The performance-related pay model was introduced when the regulator was established in 1999 and does not apply to senior management.

The performance-related pay element is reserved for lower grades and has strict criteria and is not guaranteed.

Referring to the bonus pay model previously, CER stated that its “staff are specialist and highly marketable and retention of expertise can be supported by such a pay model”.

CER's costs are not paid for directly by the taxpayer, but were funded by a levy on "industry participants”.

Consultancy and legal fees incurred by the CER decreased going from €7.1m to €6.6m that included legal fees reducing from €981,000 to €515,000.

Six employees at the regulator enjoyed salaries in excess of €100,000 last year.