Monday 18 January 2010

Councils criticised by court over waste report

The High Court has severely criticised the four Dublin councils for 'massaging' key reports into Dublin’s waste sector to influence the outcome of a review.

The court said that a number of draft reports had been altered to suit the stance of the councils. The reports formed the basis for the councils’ subsequent justification to vary the capital’s waste policy.

However, this variation was quashed by Mr Justice Liam McKechnie in a recent ruling.

In his full judgment, which has been obtained by The Sunday Business Post, McKechnie said the reports contained comments written by the councils, indicating which parts of earlier drafts were acceptable to them. The councils then issued instructions to either delete or reword those parts 'that would not have supported their position'.

Such massaging of reports, which were later - in their edited versions - released publicly, is a strong indicator tome of unacceptable influence in a process supposedly carried out in the public interest," McKechnie said in his judgment.

The deletions and rewordings were carried out before the two technical reports were published in September 2007 and February 2008.

Dublin City Council formally varied the waste management plan for the Dublin region in March 2008, saying that only the councils or their contractors could collect waste. The move prompted legal action from several private waste firms.

The revelation that council officials influenced the content of the reports is contained in the unapproved High Court judgment delivered by McKechnie in the case taken by private operator Panda.

A spokesman for the council said - ‘‘the independent experts came to their own conclusions and stand over their reports’’.

However, McKechnie’s judgment said that the councils went ‘‘far beyond’’ simply having a preferred outcome to the process in mind. ‘‘From the start, there could have been no other outcome," he said.

The Sunday Business Post

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