Monday, 13 October 2008

TaraWatch asks auditor general to probe €16bn NRA overspend

ACTIVISTS will accuse the State’s roads building body today of a staggering €16 billion overspend — more than the spiralling national debt.

TaraWatch, the group fighting the building of the M3 motorway at the Hill of Tara, will also call for a halt on future road projects.

It said it will lodge its complaint against the National Roads Authority (NRA) with the State’s spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), accusing it of rampant overspending since 2000.

“The C&AG has primary responsibility for ensuring value for money in public spending,” TaraWatch spokesman Vincent Salafia said.

“It should not allow one penny to be spent until there has been cost-benefit analysis and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on every single road plan.

“It is illegal and disgraceful for the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) to now negotiate more cost-plus, rather than fixed-price contracts, and a continuation of business as usual.

“The NRA didn’t even have an accountant in their office until 2004. They have gotten away with murder, as have the construction companies that hauled off truckloads of taxpayers’ money.”

He said TaraWatch wants the C&AG to freeze all public spending on NRA projects under the National Development Plan, until a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out.

The C&AG has expressed concerns about the spending controls on roads projects.

In 2002 the NRA was summoned before the Public Accounts Committee to explain a massive €6.6bn overrun. By 2004, the overrun had gone up to €10bn.

TaraWatch said an engineers report it commissioned, and submitted to the Department of Finance on Friday, shows how the M3 motorway will cost the taxpayer an extra €1.8bn, and will be responsible for €320 million in emissions penalties.

Irish Examiner

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