Ni Water: Questions for the Minister…

Interesting to hear Paul Maskey push the line that his Minister took swift and decisive action on members of the NI Water Board. But if his Permanent Secretary’s position is now untenable, so too must be the report on foot of which the Minister sacked the Board. You might have thought.

As Jamie Delargy noted this evening on UTV, no one would accept a chief constable having a say in a report into the death of a child in police custody? Why should it be any different with an investigation into NI Water?

That report actually unleashed a witch hunt inside NI Water, but not DRD. Before this gets tidied neatly away under the carpet, the Minister (and/or his Special Advisor Stephen McGlade) should at the very least be asked the following questions:

  • Why was the Board put under investigation before they had had a chance to respond to the internal review detailing breaches of departmental protocol?
  • Why was no one in DRD’s Stakeholder Unit (who met with NI Water’s management 82 times per year, as opposed to the Board’s ten) put under investigation?
  • Why did he retain the one Director who had closest oversight of the Audit process, Don Price, and sack another who began work on the same day, Declan Gormley?
  • How did the Minister respond to Priestly’s email of 18th March asking to start the process of recruitment of the new Board (four days before the IRT finished taking submissions)?

And I am going to throw in two more lengthy ones from Jim Allister:

  • How was the Independent Review Team (IRT) into NIW appointed, what links existed between those appointed and NIW/DRD personnel, why did the IRT permit the DRD Permanent Secretary to meddle in its work and rewrite aspects of its report and, in consequence, is there a case for recouping public money paid to those who permitted their independence to be compromised?
  • Is there a history of abuse of power regarding supposedly independent reviews, both within DRD and other departments and how widespread is the culture which caused a Permanent Secretary to feel able to act as he did?[Emphasis added]

You can catch up on the substance of this story at UTV

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