NI Water: UTV finger ‘Mr Priestley’s Problem’…

I’ve heard a few dismissive comments on last night’s programme on how the Permanent Secretary directed the so called Independent Review Team to re-write their report so that all criticism would transfer from him to the Board of NI Water.

But for me, here’s the nub: Paul Priestley’s changes to the IRT, which I would recommend anyone who still has doubts about Mr Priestley’s culpability in this regard.

Here’s Jamie Delargy:

In documents obtained by UTV we can disclose how he attempts to exercise his influence over the investigation.

In a considered response to the draft report. He describes it as “pretty unbalanced” and asked the team to re-examine it.

Clearly exasperated he told review team member Jackie Henry that an impartial commentator reading the document might even decide the DRD was “at fault for the governance failures at NI Water”. Such a conclusion would be “perverse and a travesty”.

In another memo UTV has seen Paul Priestly again writes to the INDEPENDENT REVIEW TEAM enlarging on his observations. He said the team’s criticism of DRD offered the NI Water board a “get-out clause” from the responsibility it bore for the governance failures.

Then adopting the view if you want a job done you had better do it yourself, he submitted not just points for the team’s consideration but actual wording he would prefer to see incorporated in their final report.

Now compare this behaviour with the Northern Ireland Civil Service Code of Ethics, which outlines four core qualities:

  • ‘integrity’ is putting the obligations of public service above yourown personal interests;
  • ‘honesty’ is being truthful and open;
  • ‘objectivity’ is basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence; and
  • ‘impartiality’ is acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well Ministers of different political persuasions.

Meanwhile the latest news on NI Water from the BBC is Mairtin’s Aloha blog from Hawaii… attacking “the SDLP-leaning press in Belfast” and “this self-styled Catholic elite [who] teamed up with the Brits to freeze out republicans from jobs and community posts”…

Is it fear of what Lord Denning once termed an ‘appalling vista’ that they seem to be steadfastly ignoring the meat and drink of the UTV story: ie, that Mr Priestley drove a horse and cart over the code of ethics in pointing the IRT’s away from him and his Stakeholder Unit and straight at the Board of NI Water to fulfill, Laurence McKenzie’s radical suggestion.

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

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