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Sustainable energy quango runs up €27m outsourcing bill

A Government super quango tasked with promoting sustainable energy has clocked up a €27m bill on consultants and external services in the last three years.

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has spent more than the combined totals of both the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Enterprise on similar services during the same period.

Management consultants and engineering firms were paid millions of euro to provide services aimed at reducing the country’s carbon footprint by the State agency, which receives €80m in Government funding annually.

The biggest contract was awarded to construction consultants Kerrigan Sheanon Newman, which received €3.6m for “survey, inspection and technical services” under the Better Energy Home scheme.

The scheme provides grants to households to make their homes more energy efficient.

Business solutions company FEXCO was paid €2.6m for “administration and customer contact management services” under the same scheme.

Carillion Energy Service was paid €2m for providing home inspections and customer management company, Abtran, received €1.3m.

Public relations firm Drury Communications was paid almost €400,000 to handle the SEAI’s media services.

The State agency, which also carries out energy audits for businesses and public bodies, spent almost €1m on advertising since the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition took office.

The biggest award went to British company RLA, which received almost €400,000, while Belfast-based company Fire IMC was paid €300,000.

The SEAI said the money was spent on campaigns mandated by EU directives and to let the public know what grants were available.

A graphic design company part-owned by anti-wind- turbine activist Colm Fingleton was paid €123,484 for designing and producing information leaflets for the energy body, which promotes wind energy.

Mr Fingleton, who has spoken publicly about his opposition to wind farms, said he was not directly involved in the firm, which is run by his wife.

The SEAI reports to the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, and provides analysis on renewable energy initiatives.

Former General Secretary of the Labour Party Brendan Halligan is the chairman of the agency and board members include former Dublin GAA manager Pat Gilroy.

The SEAI’s 2012 annual report shows it received more than €80m in state funding – the majority of which was paid out in grants for sustainable energy projects.

The average wage for the agency’s 61 employees is €62,000, according to the annual report.

A spokeswoman said the agency is “absolutely satisfied” that the external expenditure represents value for money.

She added: “SEAI’s mission is to play a leading role in transforming Ireland into a society based on sustainable energy structures, technologies and practices.

Its programmes have collectively led to a reduction in Ireland’s annual energy spend of €600m.”