Sunday, 19 October 2008

Greens spend €2.2m on 14 studies

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has spent a total of €2.2m to date this year on 14 studies and reviews, including around €225,000 on a review of the security of Ireland's access to commercial oil supplies, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

Figures released by Green Party minister Eamon Ryan also reveal that his department has spent some €123,000 on a study examining the pros and cons of controversial overhead power lines as opposed to underground power lines.

Elsewhere, it has 'bought in' outside advice on issues such as broadband, a review of the RTÉ licence fee and various other energy related topics.

But by far the department's single biggest expenditure was some €710,000 spent on a feasibility study of the Avoca mine site.

In a follow-up response to a Labour Party parliamentary question on the subject, Ryan said the cost of the studies and reviews was €2.2m, with five of the studies still ongoing.

The department spent €47,000, excluding VAT, on consultancy advice on a next generation broadband policy paper as well as €35,000 on holding an international advisory forum on the issue.

It also commissioned advice worth €45,000, excluding VAT, on a review of the public service benefits of postcodes in Ireland, and €171,000 on the RTÉ licence fee adjustment review 2006, undertaken by Indecon.

An all-island grid study, jointly commissioned by the department and the Northern Irish government, cost €218,000, while a "second strategic environmental assessment for oil and gas activity" in Ireland's offshore Atlantic waters, completed in October of last year, cost the taxpayer some €240,000.

An environmental report into the Rockall basin had a price tag of some €300,000 in consultancy and review fees, while an evaluation of the seabed mapping programme INFOMAR – including recommendations on its future ? cost €50,000.

Other spending by the department in the past year includes a €58,000 economic study of the geosciences sector in Ireland.

Labour Party spokeswoman on Environment and Heritage, who received the response from minister Ryan, questioned whether his department should be spending millions of euro buying in outside expertise, particularly when it has significant staff numbers of its own.

"The Greens are very big into studies and reviews," she said. "Obviously lots of money and time is being spent on this. It all appears to be about deferred action, it seems like they are keeping a green feasibility industry going."

Sunday Tribune

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