Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan has expressed concern about court claims that certain Electricity Supply Board (ESB) staff sought personal cash payments for key electrical works, saying the matter was “significant and serious”.
The claims are under Garda investigation and are the subject of litigation between the State-owned ESB and housebuilder Richmond Homes and sister company Arkmount Construction. After Sunday reports on court proceedings and papers, a spokeswoman for Mr Ryan said the Minister “will discuss the matter with Department officials” on Monday.
Neither Mr Ryan’s office nor the ESB answered questions on whether ESB chairman Terence O’Rourke had briefed the Minister on the claims, which were made in relation to ESB Networks (ESBN) in May 2022. Attempts via a direct intermediary to reach Richmond and Arkmount were unsuccessful.
[ ESB seeks information on staff alleged to have asked for payment to complete works ]
In the High Court last week, the ESB sought orders to compel Richmond and Arkmount to provide information about several of its staff who were alleged to have sought cash payments to complete electrical works near construction sites.
There was no comment from the Minister’s spokeswoman on whether he had sought any action from the State company to assess whether there was any reason for concern about any engagements with non-Richmond companies. An ESB spokesman had no specific reply in response to similar questions.
Mr Ryan’s spokeswoman said: “Minister Ryan said that allegations regarding payments to ESBN staff by development companies, as reported in media today, are significant and serious.”
She added: “He is not in a position to say anything further at this stage.”
An ESB spokesman said the company took the claims “very seriously” and was “committed to fully investigating and taking appropriate action”.
He added: “When the allegations were made in May 2022 ESB immediately took action, including reporting the allegations to An Garda Síochána. In July 2022 ESB and ESB Networks DAC issued High Court proceedings against Richmond Homes Ltd and Arkmount Construction Ltd seeking information and documentation relating to these allegations.”
The High Court made an order on consent last October under which certain documentation was furnished to ESB. Judgment was awaited on the claim for further orders.
The ESB said any person who had “information on unlawful payments made to ESB staff should provide this information to An Garda Síochána” and to the company itself.
Richmond and Arkmount are controlled by Avestus Capital Partners, a Dublin real estate company with investors including the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, the State development fund controlled by the National Treasury Management Agency.
“ISIF is not an investor in Richmond Homes or Arkmount Construction and has not provided debt or equity finance to these companies,” said an ISIF spokesman.
“Its sole investment relationship with Avestus Capital Partners is as one of a number of institutional and pension fund investors in a specialist fund that is managed by Avestus Capital. This fund was established in 2018 to add to the supply of homes in Ireland for renters and has delivered 540 apartments for renters to date.”