Independent TD Mick Wallace used parliamentary privilege to level a number of accusations against businessman Denis O'Brien in the Dáil this morning.

The Wexford TD alleged that Mr O'Brien's close political links may have been instrumental in his bid to buy Siteserv, the company that won the State contract to install water meters for Irish Water.

He added: "The very nature by which this gentleman ended up in possession of Siteserv is very questionable."

Speaking during Ministers’ Questions, Ms Wallace said: "Minister, there would be some unease about the fact that Denis O'Brien's close political links may have been instrumental in his bid to buy Siteserv, the company that won the State contract to install water meters for Irish Water.

"I think the idea that powerful businessmen with close ties to the establishment still end up profiteering from decisions made by governments or semi-State bodies must be a worry for this Government as you promised that things would be different." 

Leas Ceann Comhairle Micheál Kitt warned Mr Wallace against "talking to a person who is outside the house and not here to defend himself".

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin replied: "The information sought by the deputy is not collected by my department and it would not be collected by contracting authorities as part of the procurement process.

"Individual contracting authorities in the public and utility sectors would hold information in relation to contracts awarded by them.

"They are not required to collect the details of all the shareholders that have invested in the company that has been awarded any particular public contract.

"Public contracts are awarded following a transparent and competitive process conducted in compliance with very stringent national and European law.

"The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money.

"Public bodies cannot favour or discriminate against particular candidates and there are legal remedies which may be used by any public body who infringes those laws."

He said that the reform of public procurement has been a key element of the Government's public service reform agenda.

Mr Wallace said it is disappointing that the information is not available in the interests of transparency and accountability.

He said: "The very nature by which this gentleman ended up in possession of Siteserv is very questionable. He did a deal with IBRC where €100m of debt that Siteserv owed to IBRC, which was really the taxpayer, was wiped off."

Mr Wallace said the deal is "very worrying" as "two higher bids for the company that would have earned the State more money were rejected and a former Fine Gael minister was chairman of IBRC at the time the deal was approved".

"The chairman of Siteserv, who I won't name, has acted as an advisor to the National Treasury Management Agency and sits on the board of Enterprise Ireland. As Siteserv has won various State contracts, it raised the question of the revolving doors that exist between the corridors of power and governmental bodies and it further undermines the Taoiseach's assertion that he wants to separate the ties between Government and big business." he added.

The minister said: "I think that is a very worrying set of assertions as opposed to a question."

Mr Howlin said the Government procures in accordance with the law and "we don't blacklist people from being able apply for particular contracts.

"That politicisation of the public procurement system would be quite improper and unlawful ... Bluntly, considering the deputy's position, I am surprised at some of the assertions he has made."