NI Water: Are the sacked NEDs owed an apology?

There’s been a spurious row going on about the status of the IRT report. As though somehow it was the critical factor in the sacking of the four Non Executives. It was an important weapon in the Permanent Secretary’s armoury, but it was not the reason the Minister sacked them.

The report does not recommend the sacking of the NEDs. It identifies tensions between the CEO and the NEDs. The Permanent Secretary (and not the IRT) recommended the Minister resolve that tension by sacking the NEDs.

There will be further pressure in the press on the one remaining element in that difficult tripartite relationship, NI Water, Laurence McKenzie including further evidence that he was far from honest in his responses to the PAC.

As we have been pointing out for weeks, there is no evidence of ‘wrongdoing’ on the part of the Board, even as the evidence of wrongdoing mounts on the part of those who benefited from their forced departure.

It can only be a matter of time before the Minister is compelled to do what I am sure he does not want to do (but surely has no choice over) and rescind the sacking of the four NEDs on the basis that he was misled by his most senior advisor.

As we have said before, the Department was entitled to sack the board for any reason they saw fit. But they were not entitled to gratuitously drag their reputations through the mire and gratuitously damage their career prospects…

And the Minister owes it to the new Interim Board as much to the wronged previous board to comprehensively clear up this mess, before NI Water assumes an irreversible pariah status…

Standby for some more awkward questions for those who should have been keeping a weather eye on NI Water from the outside, and who have clearly taken their eye off the ball in all of this…

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