Cash-squeezed NRA looks at privatising enforcement

The improvements to the water environment achieved by the National Rivers Authority (NRA) over the past four years will be in serious jeopardy if the public expenditure statement at the end of November forces further cuts in its budget, the authority has warned in its latest corporate plan.1 Cuts already ordered by the Department of the Environment (DoE) are eating into its programmes on water quality, alleviation of low flows and other core functions, and will force it to shed 600 staff. The plan also reveals that the Government's "market testing" initiative has led the NRA to examine the possible privatisation of all its activities, including licensing and enforcement.

The five-year market testing programme is one of the plan's most controversial features. The programme will embrace all of the NRA's regulatory functions, and opens up the prospect of private companies issuing discharge and other consents, carrying out sampling and site inspections, and becoming intimately involved in enforcement.

Selected elements of the programme include:

The remarkable thing about this programme is that at no p

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