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…

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