“I utterly refute any wrong doing on my behalf in discharging my duties..”

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Declan Gormley, one of the non-executive directors sacked by the Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister from the Board of NI Water, is to seek legal advice. The BBC report has several quotes

“I do not agree with the decision and believe it was unmerited and without due cause,” [Mr Gormley] said. “I utterly refute any wrong doing on my behalf in discharging my duties as a non-executive director at Northern Ireland Water during my 20 months on the board. “At all times I have acted in accordance with my responsibilities as a company director, and reiterate that I have done nothing during my period on the board which would merit any sanction never mind dismissal.”

And

But Mr Gormley questioned how the independent review team had come to its conclusion.

“No specific act or omission of mine has been brought to my attention which leads me to question my conduct,” he said.

He also asked why he had lost his job while others who were involved in the same “collective decision making process” had not.

“In performing my duties as a Non Executive Director of NIW I challenged certain aspects of the process undertaken by the Independent Review Team.

“I find it regrettable that of the 28 people interviewed by the Independent Review Team that I am the only individual who has not had an agreed record of his meeting with the IRT included by them in the records of their enquiries, or incorporated into their findings.

“It should be equally noted that over 70% of the issues identified in the internal audit and subsequently included in the IRT review occurred before I joined the organisation.”

He said that since he joined the board, he was not aware of any contract that was not compliant with the company’s procurement protocols.

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  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Pete, we will be able to watch the Committee for Regional Development meeting online today from 3pm http://bit.ly/ab7AGr

    Committee members are to be briefed on the NIW investigation.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    I’ve posted the webpage of the former NIW board to Scribd before it’s updated.

  • iluvni

    I thought from the headline this was going to be about Cardinal Brady.

  • joeCanuck

    Soon to be former Cardinal I should hope. Except that only his boss can fire him and he’s probably too busy covering his own ass.

  • Pigeon Toes
  • Pigeon Toes

    “I find it regrettable that of the 28 people interviewed by the Independent Review Team that I am the only individual who has not had an agreed record of his meeting with the IRT included by them in the records of their enquiries, or incorporated into their findings.”

    That’s not unusual though.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    PT, it may not be unusual but it looks like a gross injustice. I wonder if any CRD members will raise that point with DRD and NIW officials this afternoon. It seems that the Independent Review Team members, er, are not taking part in the briefing.

  • abc123

    I would expect that those people who were sacked will take legal action. It probably makes Murphy feel powerful that he’s able to sack someone. But I’m sure he doesn’t get the same buzz as he used to do when he was part of a murder gang.

    And did anyone hear Murphy uttering the words ‘Northern Ireland Water’ when talking about the sackings? Could SF be ending their childish game where they avoid all use of the name of the country and assembly?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “The Member suggests that it is an embarrassment. It would be much more embarrassing if we had not acted when we discovered ongoing issues of concern and had tried to put a lid on the matter and to not investigate fully.”

    That’s what your department normally does Mr Murphy.
    “Regardless of whether the matter is damaging to the NIW, the whole public sector and other government agencies in the longer term, it is important to apply scrutiny, and action must be taken against people who do not measure up to the appropriate levels of responsibility for running agencies or Departments. Regardless of whether that is deemed an ongoing embarrassment, I make no apology for that approach. It is right to deal with those issues in an open, transparent and upfront way and deal with the consequences.”

    Oh right, what about the other “independent reports” and flagrant breaches of procurement rules.

    “The shareholder would not have been alerted to any contractual issues, unless they had been brought specifically to its attention by the company, as was the case when the investigation was triggered, or by individuals.”

    Aye because those that do are normally treated so well, and under DRD whistle blowing 2009 revised arrangements apparently wouldn’t be protected

    http://applications.drdni.gov.uk/publications/document.asp?docid=16062

    “Complaints from third parties
    24. Strictly speaking, complaints or concerns which a member of staff receives from a third party (eg an external source), whether about the Department or any of its individual employees, do not fall within the scope of these internal arrangements. Staff are nevertheless reminded that they have a duty of care to ensure that any such complaint is investigated, particularly if it involves a security or safety issue, and to bring it, in confidence, to the attention of an appropriate senior officer.”

    That’s a fairly unique clause in such policies and flies in the face of connected legislation.

  • joeCanuck

    People are entitled to be treated fairly and justly and if that hasn’t happened, the courts will rectify it. It’s just a pity that many (most?) people can’t afford to go there.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Joe and some are too busy picking up the pieces of their broken lives at present.

    I’m sure that Mr Murphy will however recognise the saying “Tocaidh ár lá”, (quite soon by all accounts)

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “when we discovered ongoing issues of concern and had tried to put a lid on the matter and to not investigate fully”

    It’s a different matter when third parties aka the public discover issues of concern. Then it can become very difficult to get at the truth and to get copies of documentation via the FoI process.

    The Rathlin ferry investigation, which was also essentially an in-house investigation by the DRD, has proved to be incomplete. Third parties were able to demonstrate that one of the ferries ran without a valid passenger certificate for almost two weeks yet the in-house investigators failed to do so, despite an expenditure of £55,000.

  • granni trixie

    I am on a couple of Boards. Every time something like this happens it should send out a signal to other boards but there is not enough info in the public domain to understand what was wrong with the system of acountability in this case.

  • Pigeon Toes

    It looks like DRD did not er follow procedure in appointing the NED’s
    http://www.publicappointmentsni.org/published-audit-report-drd-ni-water-2-ned-appointments.pdf

    “The main issues identified in the report are:
    The person specification contained details of twelve criteria deemed
    essential for the posts. Effectively however, candidates were only
    required to meet seven of the twelve listed criteria. Consequently
    some were clearly not essential.
    2
    Application forms were unnecessarily long and contained a total of 21
    pages.
    Following shortlisting, only 7 candidates were deemed suitable for
    interview from a pool of 41.
    The methodology used to shortlist, resulted in candidates being
    assessed against various different, but apparently essential, criteria at
    interview.
    One candidate, who was ultimately appointed, was the only person
    assessed against a particular criterion. How therefore could this one
    criterion have been ‘essential’ if none of the other candidates were
    assessed against it?
    A probity issue arose at interview in relation to one candidate. There is
    no clear evidence or record that this issue was fully explored to identify
    whether the candidate met the standards required by the principle of
    probity or what conclusion the Department reached.
    The Minister was not subsequently advised of the probity issue in the
    submission and this left him fully exposed to embarrassment had he
    exercised his right to appoint this particular candidate.”

    Again all too familiar…

  • http://snow@storm.com snowstorm

    No doubt this will end in court. Those who were sacked will want to protect / repair their reputations, sounds like Gormley has a case already…

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Flaming NED :)

    That report from the Commissioner for Public Appointments is a terrible indictment of that particular appointment process.

    SUMMARY OF AUDIT RECOMMENDATIONS

    Each recommendation has been given a priority rating which reflects the level of risk that DRD is exposed to.

    HIGH RISK

    1 DRD must ensure that person specifications do not contain unnecessary requirements for posts.
    2 DRD must ensure that erroneous information on third terms of appointment is removed from future
    documentation for all public appointment competitions.
    3 DRD must ensure that application forms are simple and straightforward and ask only what is required.
    4 DRD must ensure that all candidates are assessed against the same criteria at interview.
    5 DRD must ensure that all probity and conflict of interest issues are fully explored at interview and that all related discussions and panel decisions are clearly documented.
    6 DRD must ensure that all probity and conflict of interest issues are included in Ministerial submissions to enable the Minister to make informed decisions on appointments.
    7 DRD must ensure that Validation Certificates are
    included in Ministerial submissions.

    MEDIUM RISK

    8 DRD must ensure Ministerial agreement to selection criteria at the outset of each appointment process.
    9 DRD must ensure that all shortlisting decisions are fully documented.
    10 DRD must ensure that final draft Ministerial submissions on appointments are seen by the OA before being sent to the Minister for a decision.

    LOW RISK

    11 DRD must ensure that all public advertisements are publicised at the same time to provide all potential candidates with equality of opportunity when applying.
    12 DRD must ensure that Information Packs contain details of any statutory disqualifications that apply.
    13 DRD must ensure that political activity forms conform to Annex F of the Code of Practice.
    14 DRD must ensure that Press Releases contain the
    information as required by the Code of Practice.
    15 DRD must ensure that the OA is informed of the final outcome of the appointments process.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “No doubt this will end in court.”

    Is it a level playing field, snowstorm? The likely defendants have access to copious amounts of taxpayers’ money. The plaintiffs might have difficulty getting access to all the relevant documents.

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/business/Murphy39s-post-on-line-as.6153662.jp

    “MLA John Dallat said the Minister’s position should no longer be considered secure…“Public procurement was the cornerstone of this Assembly. This is how we were going to encourage businesses and breed entrepreneurs and generally help develop the economy.

    “There were displays up in the Long Gallery and all sorts of busybodies there encouraging you to apply for contracts. Now we find you had no chance; you were beat before you started.”

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/business/Murphy39s-post-on-line-as.6153662.jp

    “MLA John Dallat said the Minister’s position should no longer be considered secure…“Public procurement was the cornerstone of this Assembly. This is how we were going to encourage businesses and breed entrepreneurs and generally help develop the economy.

    “There were displays up in the Long Gallery and all sorts of busybodies there encouraging you to apply for contracts. Now we find you had no chance; you were beat before you started.”

  • Pigeon Toes

    The original advertisement for those NEDs

    http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/niwater

    “The Department is seeking to appoint two Non-Executive Directors to the Board of Northern Ireland Water Limited (NIWL). Northern Ireland Water Limited is responsible for the supply and distribution of drinking water and the provision of sewerage services to over 780,000 domestic, agricultural and business customers throughout Northern Ireland. The role of the non-executives will be to bring independent judgement to bear on issues of strategy, performance, governance and executive appointments within Northern Ireland Water Limited. They should bring wide experience and critical detachment to the work of the organisation and be prepared to constructively criticise and assist executive management in the development of strategic objectives and policies. The key role for the non-Executive members of the Board is to provide independent, impartial advice and guidance based on extensive relevant experience and to provide a challenge role at the head of the organisation. We are therefore seeking individuals who have experience of strategic management at board level in a large organisation, with strong interpersonal skills, excellent communication skills and experience of managing change. Candidates will also be expected to demonstrate knowledge, experience and understanding of the political, economic and social context in Northern Ireland. The appointments will be for a term of three years to commence in July 2008 and may be renewable for a second term. The time commitment for these posts is 2 business days per month. Non-Executive Directors receive remuneration of £18,000 per annum. Any additional days required of the appointees will be remunerated on the basis of £750 per day up to a maximum four days per annum. Where it is necessary to shortlist for interview, a candidate’s ability to meet the desirable criterion, namely experience as a Non Executive, may also be taken into account. It is therefore important that application forms should reflect how, and to what extent, the candidates meet these criteria. Further information on Essential and Desirable criteria can be found within the application pack or online at: http://www.drdni.gov.uk/index/ water_policy/wp-shareholder-unit.htm How to Apply Applications can be obtained by: Telephone: 028 9054 2981 Fax: 028 9054 7875 Email: jim.mckeown@drdni.gov.uk Or by writing to: Mr Jim McKeown, DRD Shareholder Unit, Lancashire House, 5 Linenhall Street, Belfast BT2 8AA Completed application forms should be returned in hard copy to the above address by 5.00pm on Tuesday 20 May 2008. CV’s will not be accepted. We reserve the right to shortlist candidates for interview on the basis that preference will be given to those candidates who, in the opinion of the Department, present strong evidence that they meet the criteria for the positions. We may use this competition to fill future vacancies which may arise. Equality of Opportunity: The Department is committed to the principles of public appointments based on merit with independent assessment, openness and transparency of process. Political activity will not be a criterion for appointment, nor will such activity debar a person’s consideration for appointment. All candidates must be able to subscribe to the objectives of the organisation in which they are declaring an interest. Applications are welcomed regardless of gender, age, marital status, disability, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, community background, political opinion or whether or not the applicant has dependents. Application forms can be provided in other formats and candidates who require assistance will be facilitated on request. The process for appointing Non-Executive Directors to NIWL is being carried out in accordance with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments Monitored Kitemark Scheme.”

    Perhaps there was some “loose drafting” and “errors of judgement” within the process

  • granni trixie

    Thanks PT and others – this has all been very educational. However, in my simple way, I also wonder if we can believe in any gov. appointment procedures given the case of the Victims Commissioner(s) – Godlike, FM and DFM turned one job into 4….and didn’t somebody take a case which defined the proecess as legitimate?

  • Jimmy

    If the allegations are true of cronyism and nepotism within NIW Murphy stands to gain as a serious minister who would stand up to the old boy networks that were fairly unaccountable bodies under direct rule. I would support Murphy’s actions on that matter.
    Nonetheless this is the same Minister that before the last assembly election promised that there would be no water charges, then reneged on it. Essentially a privatisation of NIW.
    Perhaps Minister Murphy can also tackle a nepotistic, cronyism saturated body such as the Falls Taxi Association and privatise the areas serviced by the FTA so people looking for work can get a chance. Special dispensation has no place in Northern Ireland if you are connected to a Network that was deliberately and at times violently imposed on the streets of West Belfast to provide work for unemployable terrorists and fund the phoney war. Murphy is looking after his own in the FTA and looking like the tough guy with others and turning a blind to a monopoly in West Belfast that shouldn’t be there by right, ethically or morally.

  • Jimmy

    If the allegations are true of cronyism and nepotism within NIW Murphy stands to gain as a serious minister who would stand up to the old boy networks that were fairly unaccountable bodies under direct rule. I would support Murphy’s actions on that matter.
    Nonetheless this is the same Minister that before the last assembly election promised that there would be no water charges, then reneged on it. Essentially a privatisation of NIW.
    Perhaps Minister Murphy can also tackle a nepotistic, cronyism saturated body such as the Falls Taxi Association and privatise the areas serviced by the FTA so people looking for work can get a chance. Special dispensation has no place in Northern Ireland if you are connected to a Network that was deliberately and at times violently imposed on the streets of West Belfast to provide work for unemployable terrorists and fund the phoney war. Murphy is looking after his own in the FTA and looking like the tough guy with others and turning a blind to a monopoly in West Belfast that shouldn’t be there by right, ethically or morally.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Jimmy, have you had a chance to read the report of the Commissioner for Public Appointments linked in post #14? The Minister presided over an utter shambles.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Well another day, another FOI response.

    It appears that DRD were not exactly forthcoming with some of their responses about another procurement process and that CPD were “worried about the transparency and integrity of the whole process…and remain extremely uncomfortable with the notion of any evaluation model which is set up to exclude”

    I would complain to the NI Information Commissioner but looks like he has been uh “dismissed” as well.

    Given Mr Murphy’s comments yesterday perhaps he will be willing to swing that axe a little closer to home.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    PT, it would appear that CPD hasn’t taken a tough enough line with DRD on a range of procurement projects.

    Perhaps it is time the Finance Minister laid down the law on procurement via the Procurement Board. Maybe some Permanent Secretaries have not been fulfilling all of their obligations.

  • Pigeon Toes

    DRD asked this
    “…Before we proceed I feel would like you to clarify the following:
    • Do you have any worries or concerns with regard to the transparency of the process?
    • Do you have any worries or concerns with regard to the integrity of the process?
    • Do you feel that this ‘new’ scoring frame is set up to exclude…”
    To which CPD responded
    “..The integrity of the process is dependent on each member of the evaluation team being clear on the contract requirements and the evaluation criteria. Given your concerns under FOI I am surprised you now ask the question in your 3rd bullet point”

    Perhaps the FOI concern was justified, and DRD omitted to provide this correspondence under FOI