NI Water: DRD had form in procurement issues…

Now, I imagine that the former Chair of NI Water Chris Mellor is not too pleased with his mention in this week’s Private Eye. Not least because it links him and his fellow sacked non executive directors directly to issues around procurement at time when the health regulator Monitor, of which he is currently the deputy chair, is looking at opening up procurement in the NHS.

The ‘Eye’ alludes to his sacking and PAC chair Paul Maskey’s remarks about the “shocking, indefensible and unacceptable” events before the committee on 1st July.

Yet, as our timeline demonstrates, the reality is the board was under investigation for its role in the procurement issues, before it had the opportunity to meet, consider and respond to Nicola Brennan’s internal audit (the fourth she’d conducted, but the first to identify procurement as a matter for concern).

Which is odd, to say the very least.

And, as Nevin points out, DRD had been up before another Committee beak (that of Regional Development) before over issues to do with procurement. Here’s Fred Cobain (Slugger’s Committee Chair of the year):

Although the report indicates that there was no evidence of manifest error in the award of the contract, the Committee has serious concerns that;

  • there was no clear and transparent evidence trail to support this procurement; and
  • the mistakes made and surrounding circumstances provided scope for misunderstanding and contributed to perceptions of wrongdoing.

The Department told the Committee that it accepts the report recommendations and that appropriate action, including training, is required to begin to repair the damage caused to public confidence in the public procurement process.

Considering the Department met with NI Water eighty times a year, NI Water’s problem with procurement seems to be of a piece with that of the Department’s own difficulties in getting staff to understand official departmental practice.

So, how come the board gets cashiered for not dealing with a problem upon which the Department gave them no time act?