NI Water: Waiting for the FOIs to appear…

There are some really interesting (unhysterical) conversations (scroll down) being stirred up by the NI Water story, if it can yet be called a story. All we have so far are fragmentary threads the substance of which barely adds up to the sum of the parts. That’s because we are waiting for FOI requests to be returned from some of the several institutional parties to the ‘story’.

What matters in all of this is not the sacking of the NEDs per se, but the way it was done. Most of what we have so far are circumstances that ‘give rise to a perception’, no actual evidence of any wrong doing. For instance, why did the Independent Review Team continue taking contributions to its report right up to 24th February, if as the Permanent Sectretary says, he signed it off on the 18th?

We understand that NI Water’s CEO is conducting a forensic search for the source of the leaked emails that found their way into the hands to MLAs at the last PAC meeting before authorising the release of any further documents to the public. It is also understood that the SDLP’s deputy leader Patsy McGlone had something of a stand up ’email exchange’ with a DRD official over their tardiness in producing its material.

Other organisations that have been ‘FOIed’ include the NI Audit Office, Phoenix Gas and the Utilities Regulator. The PAC have been told that Mr Priestly’s amendments to first draft of the IRC’s report should be with them on 2nd August… A number of the FOIs will be looking at some of the associated conversations around those changes to ascertain upon just what basis the amendments were made…

And we 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Update:  The report mentioned above has now been withdrawn (all copies to be destroyed) as she has been told she would only be protected by parliamentary privilege if she presents it in person before the committee… But not if it made in written form… She’s asking for commensurate protection from prosecution to that afforded by the PAC to Mr MacKenzie…

Ball now firmly in the court of the Chairman of the Committee…

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  • William Markfelt

    ‘A number of the FOIs will be looking at some of the associated conversations around those changes to ascertain upon just what basis the amendments were made…’

    All very reminiscent of another victim of a show trial -Sharon Shoesmith- and the way in which Ed Balls intervened in order to ensure Haringey’s case against her was ‘sexed up’.

    It will be very interesting to learn if someone senior (and I’m thinking more in terms of the Permanent Secretary, rather than the minister here) had a hand in sexing up the documents in question. And if not the Perm Sec….who?

    I’d be very surprised, very, very surpised, if some element of ‘sexing up’ does not, now, emerge.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep well, I think the thing with this story is try to resist the temptation to anticipate too much.

    Good call on Shoesmith though. It’s worth looking at the detail of the judgement in that case:

    http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgment_guidance/judgments/shoesmith.htm

  • Pigeon Toes

    “We understand that NI Water’s CEO is conducting a forensic search for the source of the leaked emails that found their way into the hands to MLAs at the last PAC meeting before authorising the release of any further documents to the public”

    I hope those responsible had the sense to have another job lined up, before they took that course of action….

  • Pigeon Toes

    The report mentioned above has now been withdrawn (all copies to be destroyed) as she has been told she would only be protected by parliamentary privilege if she presents it in person before the committee… But not if it made in written form… She’s asking for commensurate protection from prosecution afforded Mr MacKenzie…”

    But will she be allowed to appear before the PAC?

  • Neil

    Or the wit to avoid detection. It can be done easily enough, most employers will allow their people to plug a thumb drive into their PC, so you can get emails etc. out the door. Then all you need is an anonymous email account, copy, paste and send. Bob’s yer uncle, fanny’s yer Aunt.

  • William Markfelt

    The summary…paragraph 19.

    ‘Because of the late filing of some of the ecidence…etc…the judge has been more liberal in his findings…etc…etc’

    Hmmm. It might be interesting to see how ‘the judge(s)’ in this instance react to ‘late filing’ if, indeed, submissions were still being heard after the ‘final report’, and what impact these late submissions might have on the entire issue as presented following publication of the ‘final’ report.

    I hear what you’re saying about jumping to conclusions, Mick, but I don’t think we can help but draw on past experience of these matters (whatever our past experience may be, even if only taking a jaundiced eye as a mere layman).

    As things stand, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck,it’s probably a duck.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘NI Water’s CEO is conducting a forensic search for the source of the leaked emails that found their way into the hands to MLAs’

    Sometimes people have genuine concerns that they bring to whatever arena they can. Let us call it ‘whistelblowing’.

    The focus, from that point onwards, should be on the claims or the evidence presented by ‘whistleblowers’, whose concerned are occasionally vengeance, often sincere and well-meaning.

    Whoever leaked the emails did us, the public, a service (from within their position in a public service? Just guessing that it’s a NIW employee who leaked them). And for that, the search is now on for the ‘culprit’, who should actually be basking in the glow of ‘hero’ status.

    I don’t think NIW’s CEO is covering himself in any glory, whatsoever, in this approach. On the contrary, he is now making himself look bitter and vengeful. Is he getting his PR advice direct from the Vatican?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/ (How to create a PR disaster).

    ‘You might think that a media-savvy Vatican official would have seen this one coming; but we learned recently that Vatican officials had to have the internet explained to them by the Pope, so we shouldn’t expect much media-savvyness in those quarters. Another own-goal by the Vatican.’ writes William Crawley.

    Well, it rather looks as though Phoenix Gas officials aren’t the only ones with ‘very limited knowledge’.

    NIW’s CEO now appears to be determined to show the Vatican just how bad PR should be done.

  • Cynic

    If that’s true I hope the PAC will call him and and explain in words of one syllable what they think of a public employee seeking to obstruct the work of the committee.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Oh you would be surprised at the lengths and indeed man hours some spend on attempting to find out the sources of “negative” information.

    Indeed as I recall one bright spark in DRD called an employer to initiate disciplinary proceedings to be brought against any employee whom he thought had leaked certain documents.

    Turned out that copies of said documents had never been given to the company, and had actually been released under FOI….

    It was hysterical…

  • William Markfelt

    In light of Mick’s comments about jumping to conclusions (reasonable enough advice), I don’t want to personalise posts too much, other than to say that certain figures central to this issue have a long, long history of obstructing the public in their attempts to uncover the truth regarding FOI requests.

    I’m not entirely certain, but I think that this ‘obstruction’ element is theoretically covered by something called ‘malfeasance’ and those guilty of it are theoretically liable to lengthy jail terms. Life imprisonment, quite possibly. I need to check up on that.

    ‘Oh won’t you come down with me…to the pentitentiary…’

    Sounds like something from Elvis’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’!

  • Pigeon Toes

    I would suggest that the “forensic search” has been a directed by the Department. It is not the first instance of such “searches” and warnings given about “how close they are to discovering the source” to employees they suspect of being “the source”.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘She’s asking for commensurate protection from prosecution to that afforded by the PAC to Mr MacKenzie…’

    It’s interesting that McKenzie felt the need to request immunity from prosecution, and that the PAC granted this. Surely such requests clearly infer that there is something that may be deemed a prosecutable offence. In Holmes’ case, it suggests that evidence presented maybe potentially libelous, more than anything else. I don’t quite see how or where her contract puts her in a position of being fraudulent. Essentially, someone has said she’s a bit pricey and ultimately she can say ‘that’s business, that’s capitalism, suck it up’.

    It’s also rather interesting that she is being granted an audience with the PAC. Hitherto they’ve made these ridiculous claims that those accused of this or that are unwelcome to present their case, as recently as Chris Mellor making such a request. Historically, they’ve pursued the same line to allow ‘suits’ a free run with their hatchet jobs. What, in this case, appears to have made PAC change the habit of a lifetime? Publicity?

    So if Ms. Holmes now has a right of reply -which is only proper, as it is her invoicing that appears to be the source of the whole debacle- will the PAC be affording the likes of Chris Mellor and the other NEDs similar time to outline their version of events?

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s not granted as such. The advice is that if you give your evidence orally, you have protection, if it is written you don’t.

    It’s an important connotation I’d not picked up about the Committee refusing to take oral evidence from the sacked Chair of NI Water Chris Mellor.

    If he had legally contestable material to offer, asking him to put it in writing instead would have been a very good way to keep him quiet.

  • Cynic

    Since when did PAC get any power to grant immunity from prosecution? Parliamentary immunity applies to members of the Parliament not people appearing before committees and even then it is limited as a number of MPs and Members of the Lords have recently discovered

    The decision on prosecution lies with the independent (don’t laugh now) law officers and I assume Messers Larkin and Fraser would look askance at any political interference with their turf.

    Presenting material to PAC in session may however bring it within Parliamentary Privilege which does provide some immunity from civil action eg for defamation.

  • Cynic

    Is she pricey? Rates of £750 a day for good quality consultants are small beer.

    Ask the big boys like the PWCs of this world to do anything and you will be charged £500 a day for a junior just out of university and £2500 for every day a Partner spends on it. And I am sure they will tell you that that’s with a Government discount and dashed good value they are too.

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay, good clarification. Thanks Cynic.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Is she pricey? Rates of £750 a day for good quality consultants are small beer.’

    I agree with you. The ‘arithmetic’ done by Mr. McKenzie and said to be not representing good value for money doesn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary. A more than decent enough salary for the rest of us, In fact, a King’s Ransom for the rest of us, but in Consultant World? No.

    Until we, if ever, get to hear what was done, or how that figure breaks down, we can’t really judge, but thus far it simply seems to be McKenzie’s personal belief that it was a bit steep.

  • William Markfelt

    http://www.socialistpartyni.net/campaigns/water-charges/284-water-scandal-dont-pay-water-charges

    I spotted this, and it makes me laugh (it’s a bit Tooting Popular Front in its language, but ultimately pretty much on the money).

    Their Capitalism Correspondent writes “Although nepotism and corruption between NI Water bosses and big business was extensive, at no time did Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, see the need to intervene. In fact, less than a year ago, Conor Murphy praised the reappointment of Chris Mellor who received £40,000 per year for three days work per month and John Ballard and Ruth Thompson who received £18,000 per year for two days work per month!

    Murphy showed his unfettered support for these crooks and the use of privatisation when he stated “All three have served the board well over the past three years…” going on to say “I am confident that, under the continued chairmanship of Chris Mellor, NI Water has a strong board, with the ability and capacity to meet these challenges.” It was only when stories of suspected corruption began to appear in the press that the Minister decided to sack the four board members.

    Private companies, such as Thames Water, have taken over much of the water service. All public private partnership contracts should be immediately terminated with no compensation paid to these companies. NI Water must be completely returned to the public sector and run under democratic workers’ control, fully accountable and transparent to the scrutiny of the people of Northern Ireland”

    Transparent to the scrutiny of the people of Northern Ireland. That’s why we’re here, digging and speculating, speculating and digging.

  • “What matters in all of this is not the sacking of the NEDs per se, but the way it was done”

    Mick, is it not possible that the NEDs were sacked wrongly?

  • William Markfelt

    Nevin,

    See my post (pretty much posted at the same time as yours) on the Socialist Party’s take on things.

    Apparently it was correct to sack them for eating cake, in a sense, which is possibly a sixth form politics student way of looking at it all, but leaving that aside, there is still no evidence that they oversaw any wrongdoing. We merely have the suggestion that they oversaw contracts that were poor value for money, made by one man, immediately siezed on by the Perm Sec, with no (as far as I know) suggestion of re-auditing NIW’s previously ‘clean’ accounts to determine whether there was cock up or conspiracy.

    Declan Gormley is already on record as saying ‘no wrongdoing occurred on my watch’. Chris Mellor says the same and wished to put his version of events to PAC but is currently denied that opportunity.

    Events went, with undue haste, to an ‘independent’ review, which may not have been that independent, and Murphy then sacked NEDs previously given a clean bill of health by….Murphy!

    Of course! It is HIGHLY possible that the NEDs were wrongly dismissed.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I think that it matters very much to them, as evidenced by Declan Gormley and his attempts to put his case to the Regional Development committee.

    If the sackings don’t matter, then why all the fuss and furore?

  • Speaking about that decision [to sack 4 NEDs], Mr Murphy said: “I am concerned of course that people may feel hard done by and try and bring some kind of legal proceedings.

    “We’ll have to deal with that if that arises.” source

    Would this be a fair contest if DRD can bring unlimited (ie taxpayers’) resources to bear?

    From the same source: Declan Gormley: “I find it regrettable that of the 28 people interviewed by the Independent Review Team that I am the only individual who has not had an agreed record of his meeting with the IRT included by them in the records of their enquiries, or incorporated into their findings”

    More rough justice?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘More rough justice?’

    Par for the course Nevin.

    I assume, with some inside knowledge of how this stuff seems to work, that PAC are reluctant to brook any notion of someone offering contrary knowledge, facts (although they may obviously be disputed), or contrary evidence.

    As we know, the various agencies and departments get the opportunity to get together, prior to the publication of a report, in order to get their stories straight or, I believe the current vogue phrase is, getting all their ducks in a row.

    The accused, the defamed, the sacked, do not get that opportunity, and involved reports are merely presented as a fait accompli.

    Declan’s experience is wholly unsurprising.

    I know that Mick has said to me that ‘not everything needs to go to court’ while I’ve banged on about the need for the likes of Mellor or Gormley to have their say in a properly convened court. That is reasonable enough cooment, but when you read of Declan Gormley’s (and others) experiences, it would appear to be the only solution: for the ‘government’ of NI, and its agencies, to test their accusations under law, rather than these Kafakesque show trials.

  • Mick Fealty

    How do you mean? The NEDs are answerable to the shareholders. In this case, there was only one: the DRD.

    So the Minister would have been well within his rights to have sacked them at any time and for any reason he saw fit. It’s just that explaining his somersault within the space of a year might have been awkward to explain.

    In this case it seems to have been the Permanent Secretary’s bright idea to form an IRT and then sack them on foot of their findings.

    And he did do that, but he started the ball rolling on the sackings before the IRT had completed their deliberations, which is just one of the reason why it’s crucial to get to the bottom of who said what to whom and when.

    All the blue sky speculation (or pointing at trees) in the world won’t answer that question without hard evidence.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Or the wit to avoid detection.’

    Let me tell you the story of two FOI requests to two different agencies, which offered certain information in duplicate, but with one agency missing out certain emails they thought were suspect to their case, while claiming that they had forwarded all relevant emails.

    The wit to avoid detection? These are government agencies we are talking about. Sometimes we can be truly grateful for dissatisfied drones who really haven’t got the slightest interest in all of this, or their job for that matter, other than a means to an end, and simply stuff photocopies into an envelope.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘The accused, the defamed, the sacked, do not get that opportunity, and involved reports are merely presented as a fait accompli.’

    Makes more sense if the word ‘involved’ is removed, as it should have been.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “So the Minister would have been well within his rights to have sacked them at any time and for any reason he saw fit.”

    Do you really think so?

    Employment law would suggest differently…

    “In this case it seems to have been the Permanent Secretary’s bright idea to form an IRT and then sack them on foot of their findings.”

  • “In this case it seems to have been”

    Speculation?

  • Pigeon Toes

    That was a truly astonishing statement Mick, and as far as the need “hard evidence” then why post all these speculative threads?

    e.g “NI Water: What was Dixon’s competence to adjudicate on a GoCo/NDPB?”

    “NI Water: Were the IRT’s Terms of Reference ‘Gerrymandered’?”

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s the thing, I don’ t think it is employment as such. Which is one reason why people cant get their heads round the money they get paid. In that sense it is not a job. But the shareholders word is final, and unappealable! Though I’ll happily take correction on that.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I think I might give one of minions the sack tomorrow….Hmm there’s one that wears a truly awful jacket from time to time….

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, but only because we don’t know for sure whether he was acting of his own accord, or by direction of the Minister. The offices are very tightly bound. We await further evidence. Frustrating, yes. But… it would be wrong at this stage to say it was him absolutely without knowing more.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry, it might not be clear who I was responding to there. All of those posts posit questions based on evidence. Circumstantial of course, but the argument arises from sound material. It’s the blue sky speculation I have the problem with.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Mick as far as I was aware legally Non Executive Directors have exactly the same footing as executive directors.

    Off the top of my head there has to be a special procedure in place for the removal of a director, and indeed the director is allowed to attend the meeting and make representations.

    There should also be in place a disciplinary procedure.

    Bit rusty on some of this, so might be off the mark a bit!!

  • Pigeon Toes

    “One potential area of concern is the director’s employment status with the company. The
    procedure under the Companies Act applies notwithstanding any agreement between the
    company and the director, so if the director is also an employee of the company, the fact that he
    has a service agreement with the company will not prevent him from being removed as a director.
    However, depending on the particular circumstances, a court may find that removing the director
    from office amounted to constructive dismissal, thus opening the door to the former director
    bringing a claim for wrongful and/or unfair dismissal against the company.”

    http://www.everymanlegal.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=amCecpkaVdc%3D&tabid=68

  • William Markfelt

    \Were the IRT’s Terms of Reference ‘Gerrymandered’?”’

    Probably. It’s part of departmental ‘culture’

    I hear where Mick’s coming from. But it should be remembered that in terms of ‘pointing at trees’, none of us need any lessons from our MLAs (or extended governmental agency family) in terms of ‘flying a kite’.

  • Mick Fealty

    But they are not the same PT. That’s the point in having them, they are economically *independent* of the company structure. Otherwise what would be the point in having them?

    And, this is vital in following the story here, they can be got rid of if the shareholder thinks they’ve not been keeping them (or him as it is in this case) happy. They don’t, so far as I know, need to cite a reason to do the deed.

    So, I say again, it is NOT the sacking here that’s suspicious. It is purely the way it was done. And this does matter, because this where the legal implications may arise.

    So employment law has nothing to do with it.

  • funnyoldworld

    Mick
    I’m assuming you were making a tongue in cheek comment about the NEDs?Except of course you’re right!- the Minister does have the power to dismiss them in a way that couldn’t happen for an employee protected by an normal employment contract.

    The point of course the power to do it doesn’t exclude him as a Minister (or a man) from doing it, without clear and justified reasons.

    I think as every strand of this story emerges it is becoming clear that is not the case and he’s been misled by his officials.

    His very absence from view indicates he knows he has been led up the garden path.Of course -like so many before him -he’s afraid to admit he got it wrong.

    A good Minister (and man) would simply put it right.

    My sources tell me they can’t find anyone who has a bad word to say about Mellor or Gormley.-(Less information on Thompson and Ballard ,but no reason to assume any different)-why would they suddendly become guilty of such behaviour that would warrant summary dismissal after careers spanning decades in other organistions?

    None of it makes sense.

    The Minister should acknowledge the NEDs were fired because of a scheme to bolster Larry,restore their good name,issue appropriate media statement,let Neds get back to their pre March 11 lives,sack ,(or,demote) those involved.Make appropriate changes to NIW Governance arrangements to fit whatever he wants .Move on!

    Who ever is advising him needs to start earning his industrial wage!

  • Even a shareholder may seek the removal of a NED before a term is complete, the manner is the key. First, the shareholder should have cause. If the shareholder does not have cause then it would be personal? To be fickle would focus on the way the Department was run. So it would have been imagined that the DRD would have treaded very carefully in this regard or it would end up looking very bad on everyone….?

  • Not as Pricey

    Just a very quick comment. The NICS are continually being told to use in house expertise rather than consultants of any ilk but its deemed that £750 a day is market rate ! Just ten times what a middle manager in the civil service earns so does that mean that civil servants are not getting the market rate or is there one rule for the private sector and one rule for the public sector?

  • Mick Fealty

    If you know a middle manager who can do that job, the best advice I can think of (as a consultant) is: use her or him. If not, and you really need it, *buy* a consultant. The private sector in this respect has much more freedom of action.

    Ha, then there’s the old ‘day rate’ versus salaries, PAYE, paid holidays and generous state pensions. I’m afraid I’m just not going there.

  • Mick Fealty

    That would probably do it…

  • William Markfelt

    ‘it doesn’t exclude him as a Minister (or a man) from doing it, without clear and justified reasons.’

    Yes it does. He does whatever Sir Humphrey tells him to do.

    Sad and amusing (in the same way Thatcher was amusing) kind of way. ‘There’s no such thing as society?’. You need only inspect the NIA and its machinery to grasp the truisms of that remark. NI ‘government’ don’t wish to include ‘society’, just their own kind.

    Honest to Christ, if someone wants to re-enact Eisenstein, I’m there!

  • Pigeon Toes

    Mick,
    The IRT essentially “gives the perception” of being cobbled to bring about capability/gross misconduct issues, to enable those sackings?
    Except on the face of it, it appears that those NEDs were not responsible, for the failures in NIW, and it looks like this was a sham exercise to get rid of those who had challenged the CEO?
    A bit like where a redundancy situation is created to get rid of e.g whistleblowers.

    I do get your point i.e there was no genuine reason for the sackings , but the farce that was created to enable this to justify it.

    Then again, I don’t think anyone would have blinked at this situation if there hadn’t been exactly this whiff emanating from it, way back in March.

    Those NEDs will have recourse to civil action, if indeed the sackings are as unjustified as they appear.

    Good luck to them.

  • Cynic and William, I’ve had sight of documents released under an FoI request where careless staff have failed to blank out personal information. Perhaps that’s one reason why some departments and agencies are reluctant to sent me copies of documents!!

  • Pigeon Toes

    The point about 18th February could very well be explained away by a slip of the tongue when Mr Priestly was under pressure.

    Speaking of “woods and trees”, this seems to indicate a pattern of behaviour within DRD of commissioning IRT’s that “give rise to the perception ” of whitewashes, cover ups and hatchet jobs.

    There are issues surrounding procurement within DRD and Members of the PAC speculated that there might be a culture of such shoddy practices.

    “Mr McGlone:

    Just before I get into this wee bit here, I am concerned by what Ms Patterson said. The problems around procurement predate the establishment of NI Water as a Go-co, and you have accepted that. Indeed, many of the personnel who, as Mr MacKenzie knows, were in the Water Service, moved over to Northern Ireland Water. I am deeply concerned to hear that. The focus is, correctly, on NI Water, but some of those bad habits, it has been accepted, existed prior to NI Water, in the Water Service under DRD, as it was then. There does not seem to be any deep will on the part of the Department to go back and look at those bad practices.

    There have been issues about procurement. In some ways, it bugs me that those practices could have been going on and loads more money could have been blown, yet the Department does not take that on board, nor does it want to investigate those practices forensically in case there are attendant problems that, if there are personnel with shoddy habits, may pop up in some other guise within the Department’s remit. That concerns me deeply.”

  • William Markfelt

    ‘ this seems to indicate a pattern of behaviour within DRD of commissioning IRT’s that “give rise to the perception ” of whitewashes, cover ups and hatchet jobs.’

    Indeed, PT. I think there is enough sold based evidence in Hansard, regarding some of these matters, to inevitably lead to the conclusion that there appears to be whitewashes, covers ups and hatchet jobs. Kangaroo courts, witch hunts and show trials.

    While Mick is quite correct in showing concern for speculation regarding the NIW issue, I think that there are several previous cases of suspect behaviour by government agencies, and of ‘funny’ investigations that have been exceptionally selective in their targets (and particularly in those ‘missed’ by these witch hunts, to suggest that there is a worrying culture of partiality involved if one observes these things in the round, rather than specifically NIW. NIW, in fact, is merely the latest in a long line of matters of this type, and is still being played out.

    If one examines other matters, there are very much a number of parallels that can be drawn, the only difference being is that the NIW issue has gone ‘mega’ and blown up in their faces.

    As Mr. McGlone rightly says, hitting a spot that he may not even be aware he was aiming at, ‘problems existed…prior to NIW’. How right he is!

    One of the things that MAY need to be doen is for an independent review team, that is properly independent and not cobbled together by the old boys network and including the usual suspects, to examine some of these witch hunts again, to determine how they, too, might have been departmental hatchet jobs.

    While the forensic search for leaked emails continues within NIW, we should not forget that there is quite a history of leakages that previously affected families, individuals and businesses, and a body of evidence that suggests that governmental agencies routinely ‘hide’ emails that are not sympathetic to their cause.

  • funnyoldworld, perhaps PAC will call upon the Minister to explain his role in the dismissal of the NEDs. The Minister appears to be a canny operator, one who is keen to ‘acknowledge’ the work and decisions of his officials. This is a useful tactic to deflect attention from any ministerial input.

    The link to the July 1 PAC report was broken earlier today but has now been restored. Should it fail again here’s a ‘non-traditional route’!

  • Magnus

    Having read some but not all of this correspondence, and seen references in the mainstream media, this strikes me a corporate governance issue.

    Stating the obvious yes, but unless the model of governance is agreed, shared and understood by all parties then the differing roles and responsibilities and thus demarcations will be confused and will in turn lead to confused thinking, decision making and action, and more importantly facilitate top down abuse as and when deemed necessary.

    Again stating the obvious but any look at the parent legislation, the range of departmental bodies with an input, the role of the Minister, the make up of the board, etc reveals that the model of governance is one of a complete rats’ nest.

    I can see how some might consider this row to be an entertaining sideshow with the real show about the upcoming water charges. But water is potentially our number one resource. If we fail strategically to invest across the infrastructure in the next thirty years then we will have barely enough water to meet our needs. Get the model of governance agreed between government and go-co and we could be exporting water by tanker to England and completely subsidising our own consumption.

  • Pigeon Toes

    As a little aside, it is somewhat ironic that Independent Review Reports could not publish the content of some of those troublesome emails. However, the Report itself stated that civil servants “leaking” or forwarding such correspondence without the senders permission was not in breach of the Data Protection Act

    (Even though they did not give any reasons as to why this was the case).

    There’s a glaring contradiction there, though perhaps a little “blue sky” for some….

  • drumlins rock

    or if we get the gov co to work right we could flog the whole thing off and clear a bit of debt/invest in our infastructure, but a good old socialist minister would not be on for that would he.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I think Pasty was quite aware of the point…

  • William Markfelt

    I’m not convinced we have a socialist minister, nor any socialists in Stormont for that matter.

    A broad definition of a socialist might be someone wedded to the concept of equality, and the common ownership it declares itself to support.

    In this instance, the ‘common ownership’ is of the NIA by all of the people of NI.

    ‘An Ireland of Equals’ is a nice enough, meaningless, electoral platitude, but that’s the extent of it: meaningless.

    I’m confident that Declan Gormley, for one, is struggling to see where social equality exists in respect of his testimony to the IRT. To find where he can declare much faith in a common ownership of HIS parliament.

    Everyone else got a voice, apparently, but not him.

    I have to say that it’s a piss-poor impression of socialism where the suits get to set and steer an agenda while Mr. Gormley, another one who is a victim of a witch hunt, finds his voice gagged. There’s not much socialism in action there, is there?

    Within the context of the NIA, ‘socialism’ is merely a collection of letters thrown onto the debating floor, to its committees, and the various parties’ election literature.

    In the NIA, socialism does not exist. It does not, I repeat, exist. The word ‘socialist’ in the name does not make for a socialist party. The word ‘socialist’ in SF election literature does not make for a socialist party.A DUP too afraid to even mention ‘socialism’ in its election literature (other than the notion that it’s a spectre haunting Ulstah!) while attempting to woo a theoretical working class, socialist leaning vote base does not a socialist party make. As for the tweed jackets of the UUP, shouldn’t that be tweed jacket?

    I’m not sure Craig could have envisaged ‘a centrist-right to far-right parliament for a centrist-right to far-right people’.

  • Drumlin Rock

    sorry william the sarcasm in my comment didnt come across, there is no such thing as a Socialist, but Connor will not give up control of a major part of his kingdom that easily.

  • “the model of governance is one of a complete rats’ nest.”

    Perhaps it was designed by a committee – of permanent secretaries 🙂

  • William Markfelt

    Sorry, Drumlin, the sarcasm in your post was apparent first time around.

    I couldn’t resist the temptation to reinforce the point. 😉

  • Pigeon Toes

    Now, now William you will be accused of being “hysterical”….Like socialism it’s a bit of an archaic term.

  • Cynic

    ” So the Minister would have been well within his rights to have sacked them at any time and for any reason he saw fit. ”

    Yes…but they have contracts so there may be consequences. Also, if statements are made in the media on their alleged competence that they wish to challenge that may be another matter

  • Benjamin, the present status of NIW is a right shambles. I’m sure the Minister has already given some thought to an all-island combined water and sewage network.

    “Scottish Water held discussions with the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) over the past year, it was revealed, and considered outright privatisation or mutualisation of the company.”

    Perhaps Mutual Energy or even Phoenix Gas might have an interest in NIW.

  • “Waiting for the FOIs”

    That can be a Waiting for Godot experience – incompetent ruling élite tries to keep the chattering classes passive and ignorant by whatever means.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Cynic
    Breach of contract? Unlike Employment tribunals

    Mick
    Is there an FOI into Felicity Huston’s office re appointment, emergency procedures and most importantly the procedure/policy/ protocol for dismissal of NEDs. I assume that such exists.

  • Some answers re. new NEDs – dated July 23, published today:

    Minister for Regional Development: As part of the emergency appointments process adopted in this instance (and for which the Department secured the approval of the Commissioner of Public Appointments) the Department drew up a ‘long list’ of potential candidates and these individuals were approached to gauge their level of interest. Following this process the Panel then considered 11 candidates for the posts of interim Non-Executive Directors to the Board of Northern Ireland Water. ..

    Although a significant number of individuals on the list were contacted it must be said that many were not interested in putting themselves forward to be considered for the Interim appointments. However despite the challenges faced the Department still managed to create a competitive environment undertaking interviews/ conversations with a purpose with 11 candidates for the Non-Executive appointments. ..

    Minister for Regional Development: In circumstances where the Department had to move quickly pending the running of a full public appointments process I agreed to the Department using an emergency process to fill the four non-executive positions. The Department then discussed the proposed process with the Commissioner for Public Appointments (Felicity Huston) to seek her support to deviate from the normal appointments process. The Commissioner gave her consent on 24 March 2010 to the Department’s proposed arrangements for the interim appointments, on the basis that there would be a demonstrable element of independent participation in the assessment process. Selection criteria for the four interim appointments were based on business and stakeholder needs. A ‘long list’ of potential candidates was drawn up and these individuals were contacted to gauge their level of interest. Potential candidates were asked to submit CV’s if they wished to be considered. Interviews or “conversations with a purpose” were then held by a panel which included an Independent Assessor. Recommendations were then made to me for consideration. END

    Does such a process not automatically exclude cronies of the Minister, Permanent Secretary and the NIW CEO and Executive Directors?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘A ‘long list’ of potential candidates was drawn up and these individuals were contacted to gauge their level of interest. Potential candidates were asked to submit CV’s if they wished to be considered. Interviews or “conversations with a purpose” were then held by a panel which included an Independent Assessor. Recommendations were then made to me for consideration’

    I think it’s quite clear that anything anyone working in government, its departments, agencies or quangos says is now met with such a sense of disbelief that even comments like that need to have some facts tacked onto them in order to give this total bollocks of a ‘parliament’ any credence or credibility whatsoever.

    A long list? How long? What are their names? Will they confirm they were approached? In what way was the ‘Independent Assessor’ independent? Was he independently appointed by the NIA or its departments? How independent does that make him? Who is he? Has a track record of being appointed ‘independently’ on more than one occasion? By whom? Were the recommendations followed or did the minister go his own sweet way in selecting Mo, Larry, Shemp and Curly, aka the four stooges?

    Quite honestly, in every deed and action by this self-serving cabal of nonentities, there is very little we can take at face value. Nothing, maybe, we can take at face value.

    If there’s a ‘government’ on the face of the globe that is an example of how not to do it, this is it.

  • William Markfelt

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-10722836

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-10795146

    Let me just pull a couple of current stories together on the day when DRD minister Murphy opens the Newry bypass.

    Last week, it was announced that Fianna Fail had appointed an NIW man as new director of communications.

    At last the water appears to be clearing. Obviously the new bypass was built solely for the purpose of creating a fast escape route to Dublin for those associated with NIW or the DRD.

    Rats. Sinking. Ship. More to follow out of NIW? Or the DRD?