Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

NI Water: Contractor starts legal proceedings against MacKenzie and the Bel Tel

Tue 20 July 2010, 12:04pm

Slugger understands that Sue Holmes – whose contract with NI Water sparked what some might term an internal witch hunt – has started legal proceedings against the Belfast Telegraph and Laurence MacKenzie for an alleged breach of a confidentiality agreement she signed with NI Water. Slugger understands Ms Holmes also has other actions in play.

Given Mr MacKenzie’s recent directive against any member of staff talking to UTV, it is not clear how this news will go down inside the company. And, Slugger also understands, she may not be the last to resort to such actions.

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Comments (19)

  1. belfastjj (profile) says:

    Mick do you have a web address for Contracting Out ?

    You’re doing a great job with this story – fancy another one with OFMDFM and the former labour party spin doctor ??

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  2. wild turkey says:

    mick

    just out of curiousity, is it the Holmes contract the one discussed below or is Holmes an entirely different issue?

    also, can any of the forensically gifted who have posted on the NIW saga put this in some kinda of context? in advance, thanks

    http://blog.procurement-excellence.com/northern-ireland-water-procurement-leads-to-floods-of-tears/

    ‘But in the spirit of investigative blogging, I have got even more fascinating detail than the SM article suggested. If you plough through the detailed report here, the contract, let as a single tender, that triggered the whole thing is itself a contract for procurement consultancy! And not just that – it appears to be a ’share of savings’ consulting contract where the supplier (unnamed) is claiming £ million plus as their share. From the report;

    “The investigation into Contractor A, a consultancy specialising in procurement, had
    concluded that that organisation had been engaged through a STA with a spend to date of
    £660,000, a further £50,000 in the pipeline and a settlement on the six per cent incentive
    bonus relating to ‘identified savings’ yet to be reached (detailed in Schedule 7 to the
    contract master agreement and relating to the termination of the Customer Billing/Contact
    contract). We understand that in December 2009 NIW received a further invoice for
    £888,000 based on Contractor A’s calculation of the savings and interest to date on the
    claims identified, which remain outstanding. We were told by NIW that the position is
    under consideration.

    A ’share of savings’ invoice for £888,000 “under consideration”! I bet it’s under consideration….and how much further liability might NIW be carrying for this contract?

    So we have a failure of procurement governance in the engagement of a procurement consultant whose assignment was to look at other procurement spend. Irony on irony….’

    http://blog.procurement-excellence.com/northern-ireland-water-procurement-leads-to-floods-of-tears/

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  3. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    That was noted at the time JJ…

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  4. William Markfelt says:

    Presumably she has deeper pockets than others I would be aware of who have also been subjected to a witch hunt. I do believe the accurate sum, just to begin such a case, is likely to be in he region of £20-30k.

    Cool, if you have and can afford to take a chance on losing that amount, but not such a viable option for anyone further down the food chain.

    Some may call it a witch hunt because that is precisely what it is. I don’t think we should have any worries describing it thus: it WAS a witch hunt, a kangaroo court, a show trial, the latest in a long line in cases where people have been, figuratively speaking, ‘disappeared’. That is not an exaggeration. At least one family have been ‘disappeared’ out of NI precisely because of the actions undertaken by one of these departmental show trials. Hopefully the growing discontent and anger will result in some closure, satisfaction and recompense for that family, and others, as a result of the wheels now coming off the show trial wagon.

    There are already cases taken, regarding other, non water based issues, being stalled and stalled and stalled. The outcome of Ms Holmes’ case may well be the fulcrum on which several other cases against government agencies hinge.

    How will it play out in the company? ‘Tut tutting’ amongst the suits, plenty of water cooler moments about how they always suspected x, y or z was a wrong ‘un, and mere laughter from the proles.

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  5. jtwo says:

    All I can say to her is good luck in trying to take a breach of confidence action against the Bel Tel in relation to an agreement to which it was not party.

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  6. William Markfelt says:

    I assume the BT are mentioned simply to validate legal questions posed to them. In essence ‘evidence’ gathered from the BT is more likely to form part of Ms Holmes’ case against others. The target should not be regarded, I think, as the BT itself.

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  7. Pigeon Toes says:

    “She said her company had been required to sign a confidentiality agreement with NI Water following its contract termination.

    And she expressed surprise that NI Water had disclosed details, saying the confidentiality agreement applied to it as well.”

    Will we get to hear the details of that confidentiality agreement and how much it cost?

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  8. Pigeon Toes says:

    “At least one family have been ‘disappeared’ out of NI precisely because of the actions undertaken by one of these departmental show trials. Hopefully the growing discontent and anger will result in some closure, satisfaction and recompense for that family, and others, as a result of the wheels now coming off the show trial wagon.”
    But it won’t get the last three years of theirs (or their childrens’) lives back, the stress on relationships and the contempt exhibited by others who now are baying for the blood of civil servants within DRD.

    At some point, and indeed it would seem to have been reached they can quite rightly proclaim “we told you so”

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  9. William Markfelt says:

    ‘the contempt exhibited by others who now are baying for the blood of civil servants within DRD.’

    Indeed. Others are equally culpable.

    I could start with the collective failures of the PAC itself and the NIAO.

    The big worry is that the PAC come out of this looking like heroes, rather than zeroes. And the NIAO’s role in this -particularly in respect of how they repeatedly signed off NIW’s accounts (I presume)- MUST come in for ver close scrutiny.

    The trail of dead has just begun, and it’s going to lead to places we can only imagine just now. I rather assume, if this goes the distance, several heads will roll down Prince of Wales Avenue.

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  10. Cynic says:

    Oh dear. The mire gets deeper.

    Now fair dos to Ms Holmes. From all I hear she’s a very competent consultant and if NIW or Department signed a contract with her on the basis suggested, good luck to her. She’s clearly a good negotiator too.

    That issue lies with them not with her.

    But in NI is there a limit on consultancy contracts above which it must be signed by a Minister?

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  11. Pigeon Toes says:

    Cynic/Mick
    If this is the disclosure within PAC regarding the identity of “Contractor A” is that covered by Parliamentary Privilege?

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  12. William Markfelt says:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/business-news/northern-ireland-water-questions-the-committee-still-needs-answered-14862961.html

    McKenzie: “When I did the arithmetic, at over £100,000 [Holmes' contract] it didn’t seem to me to be good value for money,” he stated.

    Perhaps Larry just doesn’t have a very good understanding of the complexities involved.

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  13. William Markfelt says:

    Ah! Parliamentary privilege!

    It’s interesting that certain bodies will cry ‘fraud’ within the context of the boys’ club, but are all careful, and tellingly more reluctant, to repeat accusations of fraud outside of Stormont.

    Certain bodies have been notably coy when it comes to repeating accusations of fraud in a public arena, and very unenthusiastic when it comes to testing this in a properly convened court of law. I assume that the usual suspects, despite ‘uncovering’ this ‘shocking’ state of affairs, would be unlikely and unwilling to test NIW’s NEDs in a court for dereliction of duty, or any other charge. It’s preferable to let it sit within the context of the ‘show trials’.

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  14. Pigeon Toes says:

    If this is related to the identity disclosure with PAC, I will assume that Mick is correct and that Mr. MacKenzie will also be covered by Parliamentary Privilege.
    “It should also be noted that despite Mr Dixon’s allusion to possible legal proceedings, all of what passed inside the PAC is covered by ‘parliamentary privilege”

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/07/07/matyers-arising-from-pacs-interrogation-of-niw-and-drd/

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  15. Pigeon Toes says:

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/07/07/matyers-arising-from-pacs-interrogation-of-niw-and-drd/

    “It should also be noted that despite Mr Dixon’s allusion to possible legal proceedings, all of what passed inside the PAC is covered by ‘parliamentary privilege’.

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  16. Pigeon Toes says:

    It should also be noted that despite Mr Dixon’s allusion to possible legal proceedings, all of what passed inside the PAC is covered by ‘parliamentary privilege’.

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  17. belfastjj (profile) says:

    Thats there isn’t a website ?

    How was Contracting Out picked ?

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  18. William Markfelt says:

    Yep. Spineless and ball free when it comes to testing their big man act in a grown ups court of law, rather than Maskey’s own little Torquemada fantasies.

    Auto da fe now being played out on ‘Democracy’ Live.

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  19. [...] also understand that the PAC has taken delivery of a very long and detailed report from Sue Holmes, the consultant who is taking legal action against Laurence MacKenzie, which should be distributed to Committee members tomorrow, Friday…Update:  The report [...]

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