NI Water: Why the £28 Million figure is nonsense…

There was a very tidy read in to the NI Water story from Martina Purdy on Newsline this evening and a very welcome recognition of at least some of Slugger’s role in helping to break what is shaping up to be the major political story of the year.

We understand there is a great deal more coming down the line… And in case anyone is thinking this stays inside the NICS, think again…

Where has the General Consumer Council been through all of this? And how does the ultility regulator now feel about the fact that he is known in the common parlance between the CEOs of two major utilities as “Danger Mouse”?

More seriously what value for money have the consultancy firms been throughout? According to PWC, NI Water was a paragon of virtue. The one figure borrowed from the IRT (led by senior partner from Deloitte and Touche, Jackie Henry) by the Minister is that supposedly mispent £28 million.

For those of you still buying that line, it’s worth pointing you at reader William’s deconstruction of that £28 million, which Paul Maskey keeps mentioning

The totality of contracts = £28m, allegedly. That figure refers to work done. The overwhelming amount of that sum is for legitimate work undertaken and paid for. There is NO evidence to suggest the work was not done correctly, so much of that sum is self-evidently not in dispute.

If all of this sum refers to single-tender contracts, it can be argued that other people tendering MIGHT have done the work for less.

If we assume a second tenderer offered to undertake the work at 10% LESS than that eventually paid for, the ACTUAL figure of ‘loss’ or ‘not being good VFM’ = £2.8 million (Two point eight).

So MLAs or anyone else clinging to figures like £28m simply demonstrate that they’re supping up a line, or simply aren’t smart enough to grasp the simple business maths.

In other words, it was completely legal and, crucially, has no serious recall value. It looks like the Minister was sold a pup by his Permanent Secretary to the extent that both he and his party are no longer in a position to work out what’s real and what’s not about the true story of NI Water.

An truly Independent report which sought, comprehensively and openly, to lay out all the evidence before the Minister, would not have put him in that situation.

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