NI Water investigated by the Information Commissioner…

With mounting evidence of misdirection of process, and DRD being turned upside looking for hidden emails, Martina Purdy speaks to the Information Commissioner:

“…any attempt to thwart that process or to have any interference in that process I think is a very serious issue and subsequent to the information I received I expressed my views on all of that to the Head of the Civil Service.”

So that’s an investigation inside DRD and now another one inside NI Water on the basis of information received. It’s hardly any wonder there is what the Minister refers to as a ‘whispering campaign’ going on… But, he says:

“None of that changes what was actually the issue here. The issue here was that there were 78 odd contracts going out of NIW worth £28.5m that could not be stood over. The people charged by me with protecting the public interest in NIW’s affairs were held by me to be accountable and I took appropriate action.”

Now if you have been following this story here on Slugger, you know my view of the £28 Million… It’s possible that the Minister still does not properly understand what that procurement bundle contains, since there is little expertise still left in NI Water to understand the complex accountancy associated with tendering.

Slugger understands that some of these contracts go back as far as 1999, with the department paying 1999 prices… Retendering would result in the department playing 2010 prices…

Now, I agree with those like Chris who argue there is an equality of opportunity cost to keeping on Single Tender Action contracts beyond their original term (which is contrary to the rules of the Green Book), but so far as the cost implications are concerned, you simply cannot know whether they comprise a positive or negative value until you open them up individually and examine them carefully one at a time

The irony is that if Priestly had had the courage to advise the Minister that he should just sack the NEDs McKenzie felt he could not work with (which I suspect, but don’t know, was Bruce Robinson’s advice), they would have had to go without a cheep… It would have prevented this whole sorry mess from ever becoming the public scandal it’s become…

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