NI Water: “I think it would be helpful for you to meet them…”

Okay, we now have some documents of our own to share. The first is an email sent from Peter Dixon to Paul Priestley and copied to Jackie Henry and Glenn Thompson, Mr Dixon’s fellow members of the Independent Review Team on foot of who’s report the Minister sacked the four NEDs at NI Water.

It’s the text of the letter that was sent to the Chair of the PAC on Phoenix headed notepaper. The same letter that Mr Dixon withdrew after a meeting with his own board. The significance here is the date. It is the same date as the letter, and it’s time stamped at 10.08 in the morning.

That means that Mr Dixon had not simply appraised his fellow IRT members (which you might expect), but he had also informed the Permanent Secretary almost 24 hours before the members of the PAC named in the letter had received the complaint.

This is relevant because of the questions relating to the independence of the IRT from the Permanent Secretary and the Department feature so heavily in the very line of question Dixon complains about to publicly.

But this second email from Mr Priestley to the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland and Head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office, raises even more direct questions of the independence of that team from the department and Mr Priestley in particular:

In it he informs the Auditor General of the upset of two members of the IRT, Mr Dixon and Ms Henry. And asks (in BLOCK capitals) what plans he has “for assisting the PAC in coming to their final report”. He then goes on (still in BLOCKs) to suggest that “I think it would be helpful for you to meet them if the request is made.”

It puts quite another gloss on those Chinese Walls. And we are entitled to ask with even greater urgency, just how independent was this Independent Review Team? In the meantime, here’s the Northern Ireland Civil Service Code of Ethics

Slugger understands these materials have now been put in the hands of the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Bruce Robinson.