Costs of discontinuing – the Irish Water example

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Image from wikipedia

Any student of management accounting  (or management accountant) will be able to tell you about the costs/revenues which are relevant to decision-making.  It is not very often a clear cut example appears in the media however.

One really good example is the cost of discontinuing Irish Water – a public water utility formed three years ago in Ireland. The utility has been plagued with political interference and has become the topic of much debate in political circles.

In late February/early March of this year, the utility became a bargaining tool in the formation of a new government. Media reports started to note how much it would cost to discontinue the utility. One reasonably good media report puts the cost at up to €7 billion – see the report here The report draws on internal Irish Water figures, which include the following costs and revenues:

  • paying off staff
  • sunk costs of €670 million – cost such as business systems and meter installation
  • over €3 billion in benefits forgone – lost revenues and future cost savings over the term of the current 5 year strategy of Irish Water.

Including the sunk costs is incorrect, as sunk costs are not relevant to a decision such as this – well maybe they are for political circles! Including the future revenues and cost savings is correct. These are future savings/incomes which will be lost if the utility is discontinued. It seems wise to continue with the utility, as otherwise a lot of money will go down the drain – excuse the pun.



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About martinjquinn

I am an accounting academic, accountant and author based near Dublin, Ireland.

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