AN audit report for the year ending 2019 has revealed that Waterford City & County Council are owed a total of €15.3m in uncollected debt that includes rates, housing loans, rents and annuities. The report, by Local Government Auditor James Moran, revealed that as of year end 2019, there was €9.2m owed in rates (€100k up on the previous year), €2m on housing loans (same as previous year) and €4.1m in rents and annuities (same as previous year).
In 2018, remarking on the 2017 audit which recorded a total of €13.8m in uncollected debt, Mr Moran said that the council’s income collection “required improvement”. At that time, CEO Michael Walsh said that the best options regarding operational structures were “currently being considered given the need to strategically focus on the collective areas of debtor account monitoring, reporting and controls.”
In 2019, the audit report for 2018 showed that there was €13.2m in uncollected debt and Mr Moran stated that even though there was a small reduction in the monies owed, the council’s collection performance “remains to be improved”.
“Income collection across the broad range of Council services, including the main collections, is poor,” Mr Moran said at the time. That time, Mr Walsh blamed “historical arrears that accumulated over time”.
In the latest audit report, where the debt has jumped significantly to €15.3m, Mr Moran once again states that there has been “no significant improvement”. Mr Walsh once again blamed historical arrears, which appear to be neither written off or collected, but stated that “new procedures, resources, and management structures have been put in place in some of the key areas of collection”. He added that Covid-19 had impacted their ability to drive the improvements they had targeted to achieve in 2020 but were now “primed to achieve improvements in this area”.