McKenzie tells watchdog he resigned “to get their attention”

A number of people have been asking where the watchdog Consumer Council has been during the whole debacle over the period of upheaval at Board level in NI Water… Sam McBride has an interesting series of emails in which their chief executive expresses her own personal support for Laurence McKenzie…

Some of it throws a rather different light on McKenzie’s motivation for resigning:

…on the morning of January 22, 2010, two days after Mr MacKenzie withdrew his resignation as NI Water chief executive, Ms McKeown wrote to him: “…good luck with a hard task in the knowledge that you’ve handled things correctly so far and no reason that shouldn’t continue”.

Mr MacKenzie responded: “Thanks for this, it means a lot at the minute! My biggest difficulty isn’t sorting out the issues but the fact that my board is against me completely.

“They really do not understand that as AO (accounting officer) I had no option but to tell the department. I see we are in for a meeting on Tuesday at your place. I’m looking forward to that.”

On the evening of February 17, Ms McKeown then wrote to Mr MacKenzie: “Hi Laurence, hope you are keeping well despite current issues.

“Relieved to read this week that your resignation offer was declined – not sure why you offered it as NIW badly needs your kind of leadership.

“Pl (sic) give me a call when review complete so that we can prepare for any media interest. Take care. A.”

In response to that e-mail, the NI Water boss said of his resignation, which was retracted within days: “A – the issue was not being taken seriously – had to get their attention. I will call you once the [Independent Review Team’s] review is complete.”

Quite apart from the cosiness of this chat between between the CEO of NI Water and the and the consumer watchdog, McKenzie, at least in this instance is putting light on the matter consistent with his communication with the Utility Regulator, in which he suggested there was ‘no deep concern’ over the issue of procurement…

His difficulty, it seems, was less the issue of procurement that’s been blasted from the roof tops and more a matter of getting the Board to agree with him…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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