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.


  • Oh, the irony. Now you have to be called Maskey to get a job in West Belfast.

  • Mick, Slugger carried the Aloha story on Saturday so the BBC is well behind the field: “Bloggers not to blame for the broadening of journalism” 3.16 pm. I put in the quip, “Aloha!! Isn’t it amazing how far you can travel on a working wage!!” as Máirtin Ó Muilleoir is on holiday in Hawaii.

    Should a new NIW NED be making such comments? It also poses the question, “Did all of the new NEDs pass through the same selection process or were some appointed via a conversation with a purpose?”

    Paul Priestly participated in a private venture organised by Ó Muilleoir’s Belfast Media Group/Irish Echo (and assisted by public sector funds) just days before the names of some of the new NEDs appear in the NIW FOI documents. Does that not also raise some questions about the selection process.

    I think there are just as many questions to be asked about the selection process as about the dismissal of the other NEDs. And they not be separate stories.

    You’ve clearly highlighted Priestly’s culpability but it has yet to be established whether or not it was all his own work. Murphy’s claims about 7 mins in to his UTV contribution muddy the waters as to who was directing whom.

  • nineteensixtyseven, there seem to be quite a few links to the nationalist part of West Belfast in the make-up of the new NIW NEDs. Enough, I’d have thought, to ring the equality/community representation bell.

  • unionistvoter

    Having watched the programme with something of an open mind I was left with the opinion that senior civil servants collaborated to have 4 non-executive directors removed from their posts because they would not rubberstamp the proposals of the Chief Executive. Whatever the issues in relation to procurement NIW had a clean bill of health from PWC (why?) the question is what information was provided to the NED’s?

  • Mick Fealty

    A two page summary of the detailed report was circulated to the Board on Monday, 18th January 2010…

    Then two days later they were under investigation and unable to comment on the full report. The next scheduled meeting was the following Monday.

    If the Minister did not know this, his special advisor should have.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Should a new NIW NED be making such comments?’


    But there are parallels with McKenzie here. One turns up in NIW and within a few weeks and one board meeting has determined that Mellor should go.

    O/Muilleoir is in the job a couple of weeks and one day’s training (that’s what I wook from his blog) and he’s like a bull in a china shop, railing against whtever target pops into his head, the Brits, the Bishops, the SDLP, the mandarins at Stormont..

    If we accept the Higgs Report as the blueprint for NEDs, we should note that NEDs are supposed to be independent on matters of ‘standards of conduct’.

    I am making the argument that O’Muilleoir’s blog entry has already compromised his independence in respect of some of the NEDs functions.

  • cynic2

    We all need to get with the programme. The underlying theme on Slugger is that we expect Government to be honest, efficient and truthful. Its therefore a shock to find that it fails all these tests. This is the price we pay to stop our Ministers, their followers and associates killing each other.

    We can of course vote them out but when we don’t do that because they have a flag wrapped around them they become even more feckless, careless and lazy and the acolytes in their Departments hide behind their skirts.

  • snowstorm

    Is it just me or has O’Muilleour made it very difficult to respond to his blog at From the Balcony?

  • William, just how deep do these problems go? Mellor was ousted from Anglian Water in 2003.

  • PAC Chair Maskey flips too:

    “Mr Maskey explained “My role as Chairperson is to represent the Committee’s views. Although the Committee began its inquiry into issues at the water company in June, the Committee has not yet formed a view or drawn conclusions due to the Assembly’s summer recess.

    The Committee is still drawing in evidence for its inquiry, and it would be wrong for me to comment on the matter before the Committee has returned to work and considered the evidence in full . “ .. PAC Press Release Aug 13

    The PAC hasn’t met since that date but the Minister has changed his tune:

    DRD Ministers Prompt Action Commended – Maskey on SF website Aug 18