NI Water: When is a *final* report not a final report?

First, a detail from the Hansard record of the PAC. It comes from Mr Priestly’s opening remarks, so there is no question of his misspeaking under pressure.

The review team delivered its final report to me on 18 February. Once I became aware of the problem, swift action was taken.

But here’s the problem. Looking at the timeline again, the 18th was the date of the second draft, not the first nor the final, which only officially arrived with the Permanent Secretary on 25th February.

In fact, Mr Priestly is referring to the copy of the report that was re-written after, erm, Mr Priestly himself had given the IRT specific directions to change that first draft. Interestingly, he identifies the 18th as the moment at which he took action: ie, seven days before the actual report was finalised and issued.

The ‘changes’ are the “I thought that I had that information with me” material that Mr Priestly ‘forgot’ to bring to the PAC, and which his office, as of yesterday, had still failed to provide the Committee. There are some reports which say the DRD are not planning to release that information until early August.

And yet, until we have sight of that material directly, we cannot know for sure that these were just routine nip and tuck changes or an attempt to mould the IRT report in such a way as he could then direct his own Minister into firing the Non Executive Directors.

Without a full and open answer to that conundrum – and not for the first time in this saga – Plato’s noble lie (not to mention the more recently minted Nolan Principles) teeters…

, , ,

  • Pigeon Toes

    I wouldn’t imagine there are too many civil servant accountants who are conversant in Plato, nor indeed it seems their own NICS Code of Conduct.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘When is a *final* report not a final report?’

    An almost Joycean headline, echoing ‘when is a man not a man’ (Finnegan’s Wake, as I recall).

    Indeed, when is a man not a man? When he’s looking slimy and shifty in front of the PAC.

    Plato? Manchester City’s new midfield dynamo, I would imagine, as far as most uncivil servants are concerned. I wonder if they saw him play courtesy of a DRD credit card? We really should make an effort to find out.

  • William Markfelt

    The DRD is in Adelaide Street, four miles from Stormont. If the information wasn’t with him, in these ultra-modern, fast-moving, wireless, funky times, surely a quick mobile phone call (you just know he Blackberrys) to his secretary to locate that info and have it delivered should have taken no more than, oh, 30 minutes? Less if his PA used one of those new-fangled fax thingies.

    As a member of the PAC, I would have imagined that the first question I would have wanted to ask is ‘how quickly can you have that information delivered here?’

    I mean, ‘I thought I had that information with me’ clearly infers that the information was available. It shouldn’t have been hard to find, should it?

    It’s the fact that PAC can’t pursue such obvious questions that makes me despair of their ability to deliver the result we all want.

    Not releasing the information until August? Hands up all those who think they’re retrospectively writing it.

  • wild turkey


    hands up? Why not!!

    a friend drove down Adelaide St earlier this month and claims, alleges, that he saw two fingers pointing skyward from the roof of 10-18. I assumed the carrier pidgeon shed had been removed and replaced with a new Wi-Fi Mark II ultraspeed transmission antennae to facilitate rapid and transparent communication.

    I must check out the EU procurement bulletins for the contract specs on that one.

  • Pigeon Toes

    The ‘changes’ are the “I thought that I had that information with me” material that Mr Priestly ‘forgot’ to bring to the PAC, and which his office, as of yesterday, had still failed to provide the Committee.

    His department have similar problems with FOI where there seems to have been some “nipping and tucking” between the FOI response produced by DRD regarding correspondence between them and DFP, and the DFP response to the same question.

  • The Information Commissioner’s initial response to the DRD’s withholding of the DRD-CPD exchange is a gem:

    “Apparently the Information Commissioner is reluctant to pursue a complaint made against the DRD’s failure to disclose this DRD-CPD correspondence on the grounds that the complaint was not made in time. Why would you make a complaint if you don’t know about the existence of such correspondence?!!”

  • Pigeon Toes

    I” am currently on annual leave and am only picking up my e-mails intermittently.

    Hence the reply you have received has come from colleagues back in the Department.


    Paul Priestly

    This message was sent from my Blackberry device.”

    This was Paul Priestly’s response to the complaint issued regarding the “convenient” non disclosure of the CPD concerns. He still has not personally responded to that complaint.

    (Yes WM it seems he does have a Blackberry ;-0 )

  • Pigeon Toes

    Would you believe the carrier pigeon shed had something to do with their last IT contract going wrong? 😉

  • William Markfelt

    (Yes WM it seems he does have a Blackberry ;-0 )

    Perhaps he has a very limited knowledge of how it works.