Nice work, if you can get it…

Niall Blaney has an interesting detail in this story:

A Northern Ireland quango has paid the company of one of its own board members more than £2m in fees for his and a colleague’s services.

The Strategic Investment Board (SIB) made payments to the firm of its director James Stewart, who is also chief of a public private partnership.

SIB is a company owned by the first and deputy first minister’s office (OFDFM).

Update: The Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU Peter Bunting adds some detail of his own below the fold…

“This ought to be understood in the light of the findings by the Public Accounts Committee that spending on outside consultants by Northern Ireland’s Government bodies rocketed by almost a third last year to £42 million. This also comes hard on the heels of the Water Review Panel report which detailed the staggering amount of money wasted by the so-called ‘reform’ process. This scam wasted over £12 million of public money, of which £7.2 million went into the pockets of external consultants.

“Let us be very clear. The SIB was set up by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister. Partnerships UK was set up by the UK Treasury. They are using public money to pay each other at rates beyond the wildest dreams of most public sector employees.”

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  • harry

    James Stewart, who is also chief of a public private partnership.

    SIB is a company owned by the first and deputy first minister’s office (OFDFM).

    hold on… what all this public private stuff…
    surely that cannot be right.

    and paying him 2 million quid too.

    that sounds remarkably like a new labour thing to be at.

    not what Martin “Che” McGuinness would be at.
    ah socialism
    £2 million…how many classroom would that get ??

  • HA! I see I flagged this one an hour earlier.

    And no credit. Tssk, tssk.

    Seriously, though: can anyone shine a glimmer of light on the nature and extent of Stewart’s commercial connections.

    I see the original press release (9 May 2000) announcing his appointment went like this:

    James Stewart is to be Chief Executive Designate of Partnerships UK (PUK), it was announced today.

    Mr Stewart has been Head of Project Finance! Europe, at Newcourt Capital since June 1999 and prior to that from 1988 held senior project finance positions at Hambros Bank and SG. He will take up his appointment shortly.

    Commenting on the appointment of James Stewart, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Smith said:

    “I am delighted to welcome a Chief Executive Designate of James’ calibre and experience in the PFI. Partnerships UK has an impotant role to play in helping the Government to realise its far-reaching plans for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). As Chief Executive Designate James has an opportunity to make a vital contribution to building Partnerships UK into a successful business and a world leader in PPPs I am grateful to Newcourt Capital for their co-operation in releasing him”

    There seems to be a pyramid of companies involved here, as in the press release for 1 October 2007:

    PUK Ventures, the venture capital arm of Partnerships UK today announced it has completed an investment in NiTech Solutions Ltd.

    I recall a “Newcourt Finance” is big in private medicine and medical insurance across the Atlantic. Any connection?

  • The Raven

    I always view such bodies with suspicion. Usually when they say things like “SIB was established by the Executive to: accelerate infrastructure investment, and overcome the barriers that sometimes interfere with delivering policy priorities”, it usually means “ride roughshod over local needs for the glam projects, oh and don’t expect us to ask anyone about it either.”

    Do these noble chaps ever face any sort of questioning by any of the Assembly’s committees? I ask, not out of belligerence, but because I don’t know.

    While there is much debate about the rights and wrongs of the classroom assistant strikes/pay deals etc, it is difficult to see how this sort of expenditure can be justified on a few individuals from the public purse. The answer to that, of course, is “to attract the right individuals we need to be offering the right package.”

    I note on their website that their meetings are the very definition of brevity.

    Oh and from the Beeb’s report: “David Gavaghan’s salary was defended by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.”

    Yeah. I’ll bet it was…

  • Nevin

    Martin McGuinness and PPP – March 2001

    “I recognise that there are concerns about PFI/PPP which I share. I therefore welcome the fact that the Finance and Personnel Committee has initiated an enquiry to examine all the relevant issues, to consider where the use of PFI/PPP is or is not likely to be appropriate and the associated employment related factors. We will look closely at their findings and I personally will review, on an ongoing basis, the nature and scope of PFI/PPP projects as we further develop our work and plans for the 3 year period. I will, of course, want to consider the strategic and operational issues with the Minister for DFP and my Executive colleagues.”

    Martin McGuinness and PPP – March 2002

    Notwithstanding legitimate concerns about Public Private Partnerships, I believe that with proper management, PPP can be a viable method of procuring facilities for young people.

    Martin McGuinness says that PFI is an “innovative procurement method” for schools but in reality it is just over a year since the North Win consortium handed over a new block, built under PFI/PPP to the NWIFHE. Already the collage is £1.5 million in debt and unable to pay the exorbitant mortgage costs due to North Win. – The Blanket 16.09.2002

    Northwin and PFI in Northern Ireland

    The Northwin Consortium comprises some of Northern Ireland’s leading construction companies, including Farrans Limited, Braidwater Enterprises Limited and John Graham (Dromore) Limited. It has been involved in the construction of a number of educational facilities in Northern Ireland.

    In Belfast, Northwin was involved in the construction and operation of Wellington College and Balmoral High School. These projects cost around £18m.

    Wellington College was originally to be a thirty-six acre site but ended up with only eleven acres. The rest of the land was used by Northwin to build 350 houses, which they then sold at a large profit. ..

    In 2000, the BELB signed a PFI agreement with Northwin to construct a new building for Balmoral High School.

    However, the completed building was twice the size than that which was required. The school began to witness dwindling enrolment figures and ended up only 40% full.

    Yet under the PFI deal, the BELB is contractually obliged to keep making payments to Northwin for the next twenty years. The consortium has already been paid between £800,000 and £850,000 per year for the provision of Balmoral High School and has received land worth £3.28m as part of the PFI deal.

    The BELB has decided that closing the school in August 2007 is its best option.

  • wild turkey

    ‘The Northwin Consortium comprises some of Northern Ireland’s leading construction companies, including Farrans Limited, Braidwater Enterprises Limited and John Graham (Dromore) Limited. It has been involved in the construction of a number of educational facilities in Northern Ireland. ‘

    dumb question. are there any UK and/or EU laws/regulations forbidding cartels in various industries?

    in o-level economics cartels restrict competition and therefore negate the (cough) benefits of markets.