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Councils criticised by court over waste report

By: 
John Burke - Sunday Business Post

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 RPS, one of the country’s leading engineering firms, changed a number of draft reports to suit the stance of the councils. The report 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 instructed RPS to either delete or re-word those parts ‘‘that would not have supported their position’’.

McKechnie singled out Matt Twomey, the Dublin assistant city manager, who is in charge of waste policy, for criticism, saying he was fully aware of the ‘‘massaging’’ of the reports. ‘‘Whether or not the city managers were aware of this fact is, in my opinion, immaterial:

Mr Twomey certainly was.

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.

The 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.

RPS declined to comment when contacted by The Sunday Business Post, but said that Dublin City Council would be making a statement which also represented its views.

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 ‘‘and particularly MrTwomey’’ 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.