A major question mark now hangs over the decision to award a major contract for the running of the National Aquatic Centre at Abbotstown to Waterworld UK, a shelf company whose registered address is a solicitors office in London. The government is investing 62 million in the project and the 30-year contract is estimated to be worth nearly 2 million a year in profits.
Dormant accounts filed by Waterworld UK stated it had assets of only £4 sterling in May 2000, two months before the tendering process. The company also did not trade for two years prior to the agreement. Waterworld UK is owned by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, Ealing Trading Corp. They in turn have divested the rights to the benefits of the contract to Dublin Waterworld who were registered as a company five months after the tender process began.
Criteria set down for the selection of a company to run the complex, which will house the facilities for the swimming events of the Special Olympics in 2003, clearly state: It is considered essential that the management team of the organisation selected to run the centre has significant experience and a proven track record of managing aquatic centres of similar scale internationally.
It seems that the only experience that Waterworld UK have in this area is that some of those involved run the Tralee Aquadome, which is an oversized splash pool in comparison to the new centre. Fianna Fail would have us believe that corruption is a thing of the past. But the awarding of a contract involving massive investment, with the potential to make 60 million profits at today's costs to a company with assets of only £4 sterling with shady origins in an offshore tax haven, stinks of corruption.
This developing scandal is also a consequence of the involvement of private finance in public projects. The National Aquatic Centre should be built by and run by the state. The government should withdraw from its contract with Waterworld UK, and an independent public inquiry should be set up to investigate the shady dealings that led to this incredible situation.
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