Covanta And Dublin City Council: What’s That Funny Smell?


You may have missed Joe McCarthy (who blew the whistle on the e-voting machines scandal) of on yesterday’s RTE R1 News at One with Sean O’Rourke concerning Covanta’s proposal to build a waste incinerator at Poolbeg.


Sean O’Rourke: “You’ve been getting some information through FOIs, Freedom of Information requests. What conclusions have you come to? And what’s your case about breaches of procurement procedures?”

Joe McCarthy: “Good afternoon, Sean. The breaches are very straightforward. There are three salient breaches. Firstly, the contract was awarded to a a company that didn’t bid. And you’re not allowed to do that under the procurement directives. It’s very straightforward indeed. 51% of the company and, in due course, 75% and finally 100% of the local project will be transferred to Covanta, a US company, who did not bid in 2002 or 2003. They couldn’t have, they were bankrupt at that time. So that’s the first breach. The second breach is that the size of the contact has been increased dramatically. The original requirement, as revealed in the Freedom of Information material that we got, is a plan for 400,000 tonnes and for a duration of 20 years. The actual contract that was signed with Covanta was much larger, it was for 600,000 tonnes and it was for 25 years. Combined, those are an increase of 87%.

O’Rourke: “So, should that have been retendered if there’s going to be that increase in the size.”

McCarthy: “Yes. You’re allowed to increase additional..a contract can have an addendum to it and there’s a limit of 50% under the EU procurement rules. This is 87%.”

O’Rourke: “So, at the same time, you say, you know, a company got the contract that didn’t bid but was there any company that did bid, which was excluded? I don’t think that’s the case? Cause they all fell away for one reason or another, didn’t they?”

McCarthy: “They did and they fell away for unusual reasons. Onyx was the second last bidder. There were four invited to tender. One didn’t because it went up for sale. One was found non-compliant, we don’t quite know why. Two were left standing – Onyx, a French company and Elsam, a Danish company. Onyx sought that their costs of application, the planning application, would be covered and Dublin City Council refused. Now since then Dublin City in fact have pursued the planning application. It wasn’t pursued by Elsam particularly. And the fundamental in the original contract was that the supplier should provide not just the design, the building of the plan, but also the finance. John Tierney, the Dublin City Manager, in the last four weeks, has stated that Covanta no longer wish to supply the cash for this, from their balance sheets. They’re going to go to the market, look for debt to actually build this. That’s in train at the moment. But the original reason for excluding Onyx was they wouldn’t provide such balance sheet cash.”

O’Rourke: “So what do you want the EU to do? I mean this thing has been rumbling along now for more than a decade.”

McCarthy: “In simple terms the EU should stop the project. We should reevaluate where we’re at. The original strategy study which justified incineration was flawed. I would use the words that Justice McKechnie [Mr Justice Liam McKechnie] used, it was massaged. Salient costs were omitted. It’s a characteristic of Dublin City Council’s single-minded approach to this.”

O’Rourke: “But is this not, if you like, dressing up Nimbyism as a kind of objection that you’re trying to stall the thing. Residents of Sandymount, you know, right across a bit of the sea from you, and you’ll find any means you can to stop a public project in which is it €80 million has already been spent?”
McCarthy: “Yes, €80 million and perhaps another €20 million on the land, they’re going to buy a large plot of land, which was originally public land and certainly it’s within a kilometre of where we live. And we would be concerned about the health effects. But this is not a health issue, now at the moment. This is a breach of the law. The European Union has procurement directives which are law that we must abide by. So we have formally lodged within the last hour a complaint to the EU office in Dawson Street that Dublin City Council has breached the law in three respects. There’s a large folio of material which will be available shortly to the public. It will be on if they want to look at it. It’s long, it’s complicated and it’s detailed”

O’Rourke: “ that’s easily remembered. I see. Well I suppose you have form in the sense that you did have quite a triumph on the e-voting machines. But again, does the EU have the power to stop this? I mean should they say ‘OK, you’ve changed what’s being proposed and you have to retender from the start’.”

McCarthy: “Yes. They have to retender it from the start. I mean the EU can review the tendering process which is what we’re asking them to do. What tendering process and what decision making process was followed by Dublin City Council in transferring the contract from Elsam, who won it on its merits, to a company, Covanta, from the United States, who weren’t even involved? How could they be given the contract just willy nilly?”

Listen here

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