NI Water: After listing his concerns, McKenzie makes a radical suggestion

There’s enough in the UTV programme for a great deal more threads. But here’s something that was new even to Slugger. It relates to McKenzie’s bizarre resignation over what amounts to a few minor irregularities in procurement (by which I mean these were monies legally spent, and which the Department was not in a position to claim back)…

MacKenzie had enough and resigned on Monday morning Jan 18. He told the Department for Regional Development which oversees the water company.

Anxious not to lose him MacKenzie was asked by a department official what it would take for him to stay.

What the Chief executive then said provides the crux of the story we have been researching over the past three months. In the course of this investigation we have discovered a trail of emails and other communications which shed new light on why the four non executive directors were fired.

Among the documentation we have obtained is a summary of this critical meeting between Laurence MacKenzie and the DRD official.

After listing a series of concerns including how his health was suffering and how his reputation was at risk, MacKenzie makes a radical suggestion. He said as other directors had been in charge when the contracts problem arose, they should consider their positions. Anyone familiar with management speak knows that Mc Kenzie is saying perhaps those directors should resign.

On the same day officials in the DRD seek information about regulations governing the dismissal of directors from NI Water.

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  • William Markfelt

    Some excellent points made by John Dallat, re Eastern Europe before the Wall fee, and from Mick on ‘flipping investigations to make the result you want fit the investiagtion you subsequently hold’ (paraphrasing what Mick said).

    Murphy, sadly, seemed determined to bash on about a ‘side show’ with the ‘core issue being money lost’, something Mick destroyed in a sentence.

    Brilliant stuff!

  • William Markfelt

    ‘before the wall FELL’ was what I meant to type.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Though, and heartbreakingly for some of us, this isn’t new in the DRD or elsewhere.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “He said as other directors had been in charge when the contracts problem arose, they should consider their positions

    Declan Gormley was appointed in 2008, and was therefore hardly in charge when the majority of these contract had been let.

    Mr Murphy also now seems to be claiming that he called for the investigation, or did I misinterpret that?
    Is he providing cover for his Perm Sec?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘a few minor irregularities in procurement (by which I mean these were monies legally spent, and which the Department was not in a position to claim back)…’

    Exactly so.

    We still aren’t having the REAL numbers crunched for us regarding loss, waste of whatever you want to call it.

    I’ve made the point previously that, while procurement demands something be done in a certain way, the real world often demands some tweaks to procedure.

    So it may be that a contract was offered for consultancy or what have you without competition because the cost of the contract offered without competition made more economic sense than advertising costs and man hours spent sifting through various tenders. This is how real life works.

    On another thread, I’ve already linked to the fact that BELB have, since this NIW story broke, decided not to re-advertise contracts, but keep the existing ones in place.

    Now, either BELB is wrong in doing that, or it’s right (based on an economic decision).

    Ditto NIW.

    What we need to learn now is the real figures concerned, not this pie-in-the-sky sum being floated around by Murphy which Mick rightly points out above (and in the programme) isn’t the real, proper, realistic figure.

    And we need to know why DRD/NIW are stuck on that figure. It couldn’t be that £22m sounds like a scary number of lost cash, while actual figures for contracts offered without competition can be boiled down, in theory, to a mere few thousand that can be extrapolated across to being more cost-effective than the advertising and tender analysis of fresh, but competitive, contracts?

  • William Markfelt

    No, it’s not. Neither is the talking up of imaginary sums of money which end up presented in reports as ‘fact’.

    My initial feeling from the programme is that ‘independence’ has a unique definition within the DRD or NIW incomprehensible to the rest of us, and we also need to add ‘fact’ to the list of words that take on a different meaning inside the department or NIW

  • Pigeon Toes

    “pie-in-the-sky sum”

    I think he referred to £28.5m at one point, and £24.5m a few minutes later…

  • Mick Fealty

    Here’s the thing though, there is a billion going out of the public purse into private contracts, and the place is swarming in high paid consultants and the best these guys can dig up is a measily £28 million in minor breaches of protocol?

    With that kind of spend there has to be a decent whack of recoverable cash. It shouldn’t be a hanging offence in getting a contract wrong, but it should be admitted and the remedy made.

    When those coalition cuts come we need departments to be on top of their spending, Instead this department seems to have spent all its effort in beating down any form of honest reporting.

    Listening to the Minister, the thing is he asks us to believe that he asked his department and got honest answer. The board might reasonably expect that outsourced audits from Ernst and Young and the DFP’s award of ‘Centre of Excellence’ (by, ahem, NIW client, PWC) on NI Water, that the Board might also be forgiven for believing what they were told too.

  • William Markfelt

    Hearwarmingly, I get the impression that Declan’s not going let this go. I wish him every success in casting off a cloud that has been allowed to settle on his reputation.

    (Incidentally, Declan, if you’re reading, you might wish to consider a Facebook account. You build it, and they will come, is all I have to say 🙂 )

  • Pigeon Toes

    “It shouldn’t be a hanging offence in getting a contract wrong, but it should be admitted and the remedy made.”

    That is if it’s an “honest mistake” due to lack of training, but when it’s wilful and I understand the Northern Ireland 2006 Fraud Act may come into play.

    Though Mr Murphy seems to have changed his tune on such impropriety.

  • just sayin’

    As reported in many previous threads DRD “have previous” when it comes to sloppy management. A good example was (from memory) the Westminster PAC looking at the old water service and their absenteeism. Absolutely eye watering stuff.

    Murphy went quite a long way tying himself to his perm sec. Not sure this is always a good idea. May live to regret that one.

    The real test is now with the PAC. The Minister has put it to them to come up with something effectively.

    Would hate to be in the position of some of the SF members on the Committee.

    Blinder played Mick!

  • I think it will be quite enlightening to hear a re-run of the Minister’s assertions. I thought I heard him claim that he knew about MacKenzie’s antenna twitching back around 10 August 2009 when MacKenzie informed Mellor and Priestly. Which brings us back to the peculiar Gilmour sequenced departure.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Much ado about nothing.
    Time the spotlight fell on the Commission that appoints these people in the first place.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I liked the suggestion for giving much more independent power to PAC members, which allow them to challenge in a more productive way, than the information merely being presented to them by civil servants.

    That might actually work, and increase public confidence that such committees are indeed undertaking a thorough scrutiny role.

  • just sayin’, tonight’s performance by Murphy tended to reinforce my view that Priestly was more or less doing his master’s bidding or what he anticipated his master would want done.

  • Pigeon Toes

    It was further encouraging to hear that he had challenged these slurs “quite rightly”.

  • PT, the PAC seems to be able to get the information they ask for, the problem lies with knowing what information exists.

    Perhaps committees just need to be a little bit more assertive – not wait for direction from the minister.

  • Pete Baker

    Conor Murphy seemed completely ignorant of the questions asked by Dawn Purvis…

    Just saying…

  • William Markfelt

    ‘this department seems to have spent all its effort in beating down any form of honest reporting.’

    By the time PAC reconvenes I have confidence that John Dallat will have tossed in an FOI request to ascertain the costs involved in all these investigations as a percentage of what the (real) sum involved in ‘loss’ actually was.

    And when McKenzie begins babbling about ‘£770 a day’ not being good value for money’, perhaps some sort of yardstick by which to measure that sum might be appropriate.

    If we can learn that, in a competitive tendering, a second bidder would have charged £700 or £800 a day gives us some perspective on VFM, competitive tender or not.

    I still work on the premise that £770 a day from a company whose standard of work is top-notch sometimes does still represent better VFM than an untried, untested company tendering at £600 or £500 a day.

  • Joseph Addison

    The new board fascinate me. Have any of them any real active private sector industrial knowledge or back ground. Two have IDA and IDB right through them like a stick of rock. In fact I fear a real yes minister team here. More Bisto please and no imaginitive menus here. We ‘re all right jack and stuff the chuffing taxpayers. Dont rock the boat or that dangerous thing democratic accountability might kick in and really banjax the FY2 cosiness of our feather bedded existence. Lets face it its nearly ten times what an OAP gets per week and we only have to work half a day for that.

  • William Markfelt

    Making the sum up as they go along? LOL. Yes. This sum isn’t ‘fraud’ or ‘loss’. This sum is the total of the contracts for work done.

    So you need to subtract the sum for work actually undertaken from the sum Murphy’s dreaming up every time Jamie Delargy points a camera at him to come to the actual, real figure which is ‘suspect’ (and maybe not even ‘suspect’ then).

  • Pigeon Toes

    Wouldn’t that be why there should be a robust PQQ?

    Unless of course it’s DRD, who decide to abandon the quality terms of those. (Sssh)

  • It’s on UTV player already.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “the thing is he asks us to believe that he asked his department and got honest answer.”

    Ah sure don’t you know everyone’s a liar except DRD civil Servants? 😉

    That’s despite the answers given at PAC tending to show the opposite.

  • William Markfelt

    NIW’s accounts show Declan Gormley was on £250 a week.

    That’s a figure to keep in mind when their next accounts are published. It’ll be interesting to see how much less the new NEDs earn in order to offer real VFM.

  • dot

    Mick – despite the above comments you were very poor. A coherent sentence would ahve been good. To the rest – i am a taxpayer, and am deeply concerned about the practices in NIW in letting contracts. EU procurment law exists for a reason – as does their absolute responsibility to secure value for money on my (our) account. Think you have all bought inot the Dallat/McGlone self publcicity train and missed the bigger picture.

  • just sayin’

    could well be – big question for pac is who was leading who ? any odds on Priestleys employment status in 2011?

  • Pigeon Toes

    I wondered who was providing cover for whom?

    Politically, I imagine Mr Murphy is untouchable, and by providing a defence of Priestly he may well escape .. That is, if there isn’t anything more to come.

  • Murphy (6.48 mins into his piece): “.. so the core issue is here is that attention my attention was brought to the fact, initially in relation to one contract that there was something on-toward going on within NIW and I asked for further inquiries into that and that turned up 73 contracts with £24.5 million of awarding of contracts which couldn’t be defended which was done in an improper fashion”

    This would indicate that the Minister was intimately involved from about August 10, 2009 – if not earlier. I don’t think this was mentioned in the July 1 PAC meeting.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Another thought, just why did Mr Murphy have to ask the IRT if they had come to their conclusions independently?

    Surely he wouldn’t have had doubts?

    And was that “assurance” given in writing by the team?

    Of course they would be duty bound to answer yes, if such a conversation took place.

    He said, she said

  • Pigeon Toes

    Mick, with all the cronyism./corruption that appears to be inherent within the public procurement sector in Northern Ireland there is a severe problem which does need to be addressed.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “I’ve made the point previously that, while procurement demands something be done in a certain way, the real world often demands some tweaks to procedure”

    Like giving ferry contracts to business owners, who don’t actually possess the necessary vessel. That procedure was “tweaked”..

  • Mick Fealty

    Dot, it’s not a fan club you know. Fire away!

    I am very concerned about the value for money angle too. I’m just not convinced that sacking four NEDs (who were not even given sight of the internal review before being investigated), compensates for a hard number crunch and forensic investigation that evidences actual wrong-doing.

    The key point for me is that this was not done to get to the bottom of the problem but to solve a problem for Mr McKenzie. What the problem really is, as Dawn Purvis notes, we still don’t know.

    What problem would be deep enough to cause McKenzie health problems, and to resign (unbeknownst to most of his own workforce) and then cashier a board on the flimsy excuse that £28 million spent was not in line with departmental regulations?

    You can believe that if you want to…. But I go back to my earlier point that some proportion of a billion pounds spent on private contracts has to have gone astray, yet all we have is a minor procedural error dressed up as a catastrophe.

  • PT, I think you’ll find the ‘shes’ were excluded!! 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Oh yes? On what grounds precisely?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “On the same day officials in the DRD seek information about regulations governing the dismissal of directors from NI Water”

    And then cobble together the IRT.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin old age getting to you? IRT had female on the panel…

  • Apparently it’s a morality tale, Mick, size isn’t everything. Conor was convinced there was ‘wrongdoing going on within NIW’ and he’s determined to stamp it out. No more prevarication like in the bad old days of direct rule: the Minister hears, the Minister decides, the Minister kicks ass.

    He’s a great ventriloquist. I’m convinced those were Murphy’s words issuing from the mouths of Priestly and MacKenzie at the PAC meeting and he was moving their lips!!

  • Late hours!! Done a little transcription for Slugger, NALIL blog and Scribd.

  • joeCanuck

    Mick,
    This whole episode is getting rather confusing for me and perhaps others.
    Could anyone put together a coherent timeline explanation of what has happened. There seems to be a lot of smoke but no fire!

  • Dangermouse

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    As a disinterested watcher of this situation from across the sea I have a couple of points to make:

    1. There is very little detail anywhere, from either the PAC hearings or the UTV Programme behind the reasons for the single tender contract awards. Some of it may well have been for good reasons, some not. We still don’t know.

    2. The most significant point must be that Paul Priestly of DRD took significant time and trouble to re-write the Independent report on the board, in order to move any scintilla of oversight from him and his department to the non-execs on the board. This is highly obnoxious in so far as what he is trying to achieve. One must ask the question why he is so committed to do MacKenzie’s bidding to clear the decks of the board as previously constituted. Why indeed…..

    3. What exactly is the nature of the relationship between Mr MacKenxie and Mr Dixon of Phoenix Natural Gas. Mr .Dixon gave his time free of charge to be a member of the committee investigating the board, but clearly comething else is going on between him, Mr Mackenzie and Mr Priestly.

    We need to understand Mr MacKenzie’s desire to have a new board, his desire to have his “friends’ appointed to scrutinise the board, and his “friend’s” relationship with Mr Priestly of the DRD.

    In one e-mail after meeting Mr Priestly he tells Mr Dixon to “expect a call “. The next dayMr Dixon is appinted to the independent committee. Did Mr Mackenzie instruct, request, bribe, badger, or guilt Mr Priestly into putting his “friend” (his words, not mine) on to this committee?

    There is also the question of Mr Dixon’s language around Mr Priestly of the DRD “I bet PP’s eyes were bulging” Why would they be bulging? What happened in this meeting?

    Also – mr Dixon and Mr MacKenzie appear to treat the regulator with serious distain “Dangermouse” “the wee mouse” etc – although I think they meant Penfold, but no matter.

    What, exactly, are mr Dixon and Mr Mackenzie cooking up between them?

    Also – what do we make of Mr.Dixon’s atttirude to the PAC and subsequest slap he got from Gerry Loughran with regard to using Phoenix as a vehicle for his own personal foibles.

    And finally, what is the current nature of the relationship between Mr MacKenzie and his previous masters at Viridian?

    And Finally Finally, what would one find out from an FOI request to look at any emails concerning any of these murky matters that Mr MacKenzie deleted, ordered deleted, or attempted to delete from NIW e-mail archives??

    What are they up to in there?

  • William Markfelt

    \Think you have all bought inot the Dallat/McGlone self publcicity train and missed the bigger picture.’

    Yeah, you said that in the programme, Conor.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just Google NI Water Timeline. But if you are confused now, that won’t help.

    Preistley telling an Independent inquiry team to point their guns away from him and at the Board, whom he then sacks. It wasn’t in the programme, but consider this is a piece with his BLOCK CAPs instruction to the Audit Office.

    Politically, Murphy is entitled to a degree to protection on this. But Priestly, I suspect, will be viewed by his own peers as the stupid boy who got caught with his fingers in the cookie jar and (almost) gave the game away for the rest.

    The questions keep popping up though.

    Why did the CEO offer to resign over a few minor irregularities (even if £28 mill sounds like an impressively large number), that even Ernst and Young could not find?

    And why sack a board over a few minor breaches they weren’t even told about?

    And why did PWC give NI Water a Centre of Excellence certificate in September when all this stuff was kicking off?

    Meanwhile, local MP spent £42.50 down at Tescos shocker… so who cares whether there’s a real procurement problem at NI Water or not…

  • Mick Fealty

    You can be convinced of that Nev, but you have no evidence one way or the other. A conspiracy theory it’s called. Not saying you are wrong, but we’ve had plenty people ‘seeing things’ that aren’t really there in this story already.

  • Mick Fealty

    And the emails read out by John Dallat…

  • Pigeon Toes

    I also note that there was withholding of FOI material, and presumably they also didn’t let on that the material existed.

    I could have written the script for this…

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/Pressure-mounts-on-Sinn-Fein.6478169.jp

    “A series of leaked e-mails revealed that the report, which cost taxpayers £50,000, included word-for-word some of Mr Priestly’s edits, while some others were partially written into the final document. However, some proposed edits were not included.

    In an interview broadcast after the programme, Mr Murphy, who is out of the country on holiday, made clear that he is standing by Mr Priestly, insisting that the Independent Review Team report which led to the directors’ sacking was entirely independent of his officials.”

  • Just to verfiy William’s point about contract renewals etc (@11.35pm yesterday) – in my experience some contracts have a clause of sorts inserted to allow renewal unless the department have had cause for complaint (since the original vmf analysis should have accompanied the initial competitive award). It may even fall within procurement guidelines that such a clause should be inserted (although that is pure conjecture).
    PWC and the Centre of Excellence cert is typical of all such systems – there are rules to the game and everyone knows how to play them. The question is – why go through this charade of giving such designations to government departments (and waste money doing so).

  • Mick Fealty

    There is a more interesting question than that. Why is PWC, who also do work for NI Water, giving out gongs to an organisation which saw fit to cashier four out of five NEDS over the same matter.

    Either the IRT was right or, PWC was? Or if they are both wrong why is government spending shedloads of money with these outside contractors if they so casually erode their own value as outsiders to government systems?

  • “…giving out gongs to an organisation which saw fit to cashier four out of five NEDS over the same matter.”
    Either the gong is meaningless and is the physical expression of a way of disbursing money to your buddies (money for old rope).
    Or, as works in all institutional reviews – the value system is understood to the last letter and semantics is employed so that everyone is happy. Basically any review process is always carried out within the letter of the rules (so the result is ‘unchallengeable’) rather than the spirit (which will be conveniently dismissed as subjective). I’ve said this before – the same value system that any of us would apply is not being operated in the upper levels of the civil service or other large institutions (e.g. the banks). We would consider morality, ethics, just governance, efficiency etc as performance markers – not so in the bodies I mentioned.

  • magnus

    Just as an aside

    Can we compile a list of those Ministers run by their Civil servants and those who are not. To begin I suggest

    Conor Murphy Run
    Michael McGimpsey In charge

    Note to any civil servants looking in following last night’s broadcast, please contribute.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Excellent work Dangermouse

    “although I think they meant Penfold” (Agreed ;-0)

  • Pigeon Toes
  • Baxter

    Mike Don’t necessarily agree with dot but on watching the programme your responses seemed to indicate the failings of the non execs was just a minor procedural issue . Did you mean this to be the case ? As i think all observers would conclude it is clear that there was absolute disregard for all of the standard procurement codes and eu regulations . Do you not think the non execs and the board should accept the responsibility for such poor practice and lack of governance in the organisation ?

  • Baxter

    Absolutely. It’s the only way to have real clarity.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Mick, can I just ask, do you believe all the major issues are out in the open now, or have you suspicion that there is alot more out there to come yet?

  • Oracle

    These ministries that S.F run are fast becoming an unmitigated disaster

    Education under Ruane is a complete shambles, to the point were they were forced to replace her on TV and Radio with John O’Dowd from the University of Craigavon. The mere fact that she has not resigned only illustrates that she was the wrong choice in the first place.

    DRD under Murphy well obviously it’s not under Murphy at all, with the Dirty Water scandal brewing it’s apparent to all that he’s owned and exposed as owned. He really only has one option now!

    Deputy First Minister McGuinness has never made a decision for us to judge him on…. Well he made one that was never to make a decision and let the civil servants run his office; he seems to have opted out of politics altogether and has become part of the system.

    Agriculture has thieving farmers claiming tens of millions from the Europe that they aren’t entitled too and Gildernew stating “I’m not sure anybody’s really to blame”

  • Baxter

    That’s all fine but there is a danger when comparing value for money For non execs. Taking that approach will just mean you end up appointing people because they are cheaper, not because they are better and make a real difference driving major change and saving the tax payer money in the long run. The best non execs cost a lot because they are good. Personally I would rather see NEDs with world class experience of driving change and improvement in major scale organisations or utilities. And if you had to offer £1500 per day or whatever to get the right calibre so be it.

  • Mick, I thought you would have noted from the tone of the comments and the exclamation marks that my tongue was firmly in my cheek.

    Have a look at my 12.35 transcription. Is Murphy referring to contract A? If so, that places him at the heart of the action around August 10. I’m going back to the July 1 PAC report to see if there is a mismatch between Murphy’s claims and those of Priestly and MacKenzie.

  • DC

    Wee Dangermouse – hiliarious!!

  • DC

    The unelected deputy First Minister and indeed First Minister?

    Remember that the DUP and SF got rid of the cross-community vote, so they are party selected leaders of the house than elected and lack wider political endorsement.

  • Mick Fealty

    Baxter,

    I don’t necessarily mean to imply that. But I am struggling to understand just what the Board’s failings were. It’s not quantified in the body of any of the IRT’s draft and final reports.

    Further is no documentary evidence quantifying how much if any of that £28 millions was actually misspent. But I do know this problem escaped Ernst and Young, and PWC.

    It works out at about 1.6% of the total money spent on private contractors. Now, if you wave a big figure like £28 mill and don’t explain what you mean by that, then a lot of people who know no better (because no one inside or outside the machine whose job it is to report these matters honestly and openly is telling them) will believe Mr Murphy when he says he acted strongly and decisively… I’m all for that, but, hey what if he creamed the wrong people by the misdirection of his PS?

    I come back to my previous point. The Board ordered the internal review which eventually quantified the problem, but found themselves under investigation before they had had a chance to meet and respond to the report.

    And then look at what happens. The one man left on the Board was the only one who was in a position to know exactly what was going on: ie Don Price as a member of the Audit Committee.

    That’s no slur on price btw, it is simply further proof that there was little substance to the allegations in first place.

    This was a hierarchy pushing awkward individuals (which is what NEDs are supposed to be) out of the system. What we are no nearer finding out is, why?

    In the meantime, is the government run NIWater getting fleeced by some sharper operators? At a £1 Billion in contracts, you would have to think so.

    And yet, where are the figures?

  • DC

    What are they up to?

    Well the NI Civil Service could use the law set out below to find out:

    The Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000

    Lawful interception of a communication
    3. – (1) For the purpose of section 1(5)(a) of the Act, conduct is authorised, subject to paragraphs (2) and (3) below, if it consists of interception of a communication, in the course of its transmission by means of a telecommunication system, which is effected by or with the express or implied consent of the system controller for the purpose of –

    (a) monitoring or keeping a record of communications –

    (i) in order to –

    (aa) establish the existence of facts, or

    (bb) ascertain compliance with regulatory or self-regulatory practices or procedures which are –

    applicable to the system controller in the carrying on of his business or

    applicable to another person in the carrying on of his business where that person is supervised by the system controller in respect of those practices or procedures, or

    (cc) ascertain or demonstrate the standards which are achieved or ought to be achieved by persons using the system in the course of their duties, or

    (ii) in the interests of national security, or

    (iii) for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime…

  • “The Board ordered the internal review which eventually quantified the problem”

    MacKenzie claimed he ordered the review at the July 1 PAC session and now Murphy says “.. so the core issue is here is that attention my attention was brought to the fact, initially in relation to one contract that there was something on-toward going on within NIW and I asked for further inquiries into that and that turned up 73 contracts with £24.5 million of awarding of contracts which couldn’t be defended which was done in an improper fashion”

    That looks like three separate claims to the same order.

  • Mick Fealty

    No. And yes. 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed.

    Both the Minister, and the man whose big idea it was to get rid of the board instead of him are pinning lot on a PAC that has already contrived not to take evidence from the one Board member who has offered to give oral evidence (covered by parliamentary privilege) but told him instead he could give it in a written form (which isn’t).

  • Baxter

    Fair enough Mick, will be interesting to see what comes out.

    But remember PWC and others has had its nose in the trough there too for years across the public sector so the fact that they missed the core issue about consultancy contracts shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    And I noted from someones post earlier on your site that PWC awarded NIW some “standard of excellence” or other – maybe just a cynical sop for PWC to justify the vast amount of money spend by NIW on them.

    I’ve only started following this recently but am amazed at that Paul Priestly would go out of his way to so openly deflect any criticism of his own department. It’s a joke and I hope the PAC get to the bottom of it and that heads ultimately roll.

    The point made in the programme last night about the cosy relationship between the consultancies and the purchasers should not be underestimated. You only have to look at the shambles in Enron and the US Banks and the world wide financial disaster caused when independance of advisors was allowed to be compromised through cosy relationships and people looking after each other.

    Any anyway, why is there so little skill internally within NIW that you need expensive consultancies brought in to undertake what are in many cases relatively meanial tasks!!

    Interesting times tho. I hope this scrutiny is a wake up call across the public sector and that governance standards significantly improve. Although if everyone is made to constantly watch their backs for every decision, the already treacle like pace of decision making across all departments will only get worse.

  • malairt

    What was peculiar about “the Gilmour sequenced departure”?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘There is very little detail anywhere, from either the PAC hearings or the UTV Programme behind the reasons for the single tender contract awards. Some of it may well have been for good reasons, some not. We still don’t know.’

    Yes, I’ve raised this point on a couple of occasions now.

    DRD/NIW wouldn’t be behind the door in laying specifics on us if there were any specifics.

    My gut feeling is that they haven’t don’t this because they can’t. As you say, many of these contracts could very well have valid reasons for single tender.

    It would not be unheard of for businesses to tack on ‘other’ contracts, i.e. if you do one thing under competitive tendering terms, and the purchaser likes what they see, they may well invite you to do the same, in another office, building, location, at the same price previously quoted, or on a pro-rata basis. It’s relatively normal action, in both the private and public sector.

  • William Markfelt

    Would anyone like to see word-for-word responses to FOI requests from the NIAO and another agency?

    These would give rise to a perception that NIAO takes its cue from other government agencies it’s theoretically independent from.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘in my experience some contracts have a clause of sorts inserted to allow renewal unless the department have had cause for complaint’

    Exactly so, John. The old ‘for a period of x years with an option to renew for another x years’ is commonplace in contracts.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Oh yeah I would 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Baxter,

    I agree with all of that. ESP the bit at the end. I really do hope the political parties can find a way to act in some concert here. They have more to gain than lose by working matters through the PAC as thoroughly as possible.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Taking that approach will just mean you end up appointing people because they are cheaper, not because they are better’

    Agreed, Baxter, but then that’s the nub of the entire ‘procurement problems’ matter too.

    Did we, the stakeholders, get ‘cheap’ or did we get ‘best’?

    Do I, as a stakeholder in NIW, entrust senior managers to make decisions on my behalf? Do I hope that they reach conclusions based on their knowledge and experience, which outweighs procedure, in my opinion?

  • William Markfelt

    \Priestly, I suspect, will be viewed by his own peers as the stupid boy who got caught with his fingers in the cookie jar and (almost) gave the game away for the rest.’

    Ah, no.

    Priestly HAS given the game away. I would imagine that, in terms of his standing in the corridors of power, he’s now toxic.

    If there’s anything to be learned from this (regardless of what PAC say or do) it’s that there is some sense of democracy in action, where a few interested bystanders, a journalist and a blog can actually drive a story upwards

    And it’s a reminder that when these puffed up, self-important oiks get the run of themselves, there’s always someone (email leakers, people who highlight the absence of proper catamarans, what have you) who will do the right thing.

    There will always be someone who will do the right thing.

    It’s also interesting to find that at least some of our politicians, Dallat, McGlone, Purvis, for example, also feel it’s important to keep hammering on at ‘the right thing’.

    No one has a result, yet, and in typical political fashion we may end up with some fudge job from PAC, but whatever way it goes, the lesson to people like Priestly (whose name curiously emerges in respect of matters where people try to do the right thing) is that the days of the little fiefdoms, if not at an end, now have a sort of civic minded UNHCR force patrolling his (and others) borders.

  • Malairt, I’ve posted some details on NALIL blog.

    MacKenzie’s antenna picks up a whiff of a procurement problem circa August 10, 2009. David Gilmour, an NIW executive, is Director of Procurement on August 4 and his title is changed to Commercial Director by August 18. The whiff was contained in an email from Gilmour on August 10. Some time later the post is made redundant and Gilmour is gone. The change of title looks to me like a smokescreen.

    MacKenzie claims he drew Mellor’s and Priestly’s attention to whiff around that time and Murphy’s comments on UTV would appear to indicate that he knew too and that he ‘asked for further inquiries’.

    The PAC needs to sort out who was directing who at various times after MacKenzie took up his post and who may essentially have been the messengers.

  • benjamin

    sfsfa

  • malairt

    Ah. I see.

    That’s a red herring. The title was Commercial Director from beginning to end. It’s easy to get titles wrong and this is just one that ‘s got through the checking process without being spotted..

  • malairt

    http://www.s1jobs.com/job/230251397.html

    link to original job advert