Public Appointments Commissioner gets involved…

The News Letter reports Felicity Houston asking for a report on the selection process… She is at pains to point out that “There is no reason to believe that the process didn’t apply with the principles of my code.”

There’s one detail worth noting from BelfastJJ about the appointments, which despite the title of his post has little directly to say about probity issues, but it does give an interesting insight into the order of the selection process:

I’ve 3 letters dated the 16th June confirming the appointments of Mr McDonald – Mr Steele and Mr Bunting. The Formal appointment dates for all 3 NED’s is the 21st of June signed by Conor Murphy!!

What’s interesting is that at this point there is no mention of Mairtin O’Muilleoir as an NED. This appears only to have happened after a letter comes in from the CEO of the Consumer Council (who as Seamus McKee noted on Evening Extra yesterday has been remarkably quiet through all of this).

So does this mean that the ’emergency process’ was only activated after the first three interim appointments were made? Or did it apply from the beginning?

  • Pigeon Toes

    What kind of governance allows these issues to go on for months on end?

    Shouldn’t the appropriate mechanism and process have been deployed at the time of the appointments, and shouldn’t Ms Houston’s office been rather more pro-active in the appointments, which were after all outside the normal procedure?

    How the hell do any of these departments pass any type of audit procedure?

  • Well if thats true – i’ll need to go through of my documents because i believe there is information in it which keeps the commissioner for public appointments informed about developments.

    And i’ve documents relating to Mairtin O’Muilleoir appointment – watch this space !!

    In relation to Mairtin O’Muilleoir read this

  • As i thought some documents from the policy adviser for the commissioner for a public appointments – one dated the 24th June looking for an update on the appointments for the Commissioner

    Hello Commissioner they’d already been appointed on the 16th June

  • PT, IIRC the Independent Assessor came from Huston’s office. As the appointments were outside the normal procedure there was an even greater need for close monitoring.

  • Pigeon Toes

    OK, perhaps my understanding is a bit limited, but in the real world appointments can’t be made until clearance is received i.e that all the appropriate checks such as references, qualification checked etc

    Only then can the final decision be made, offer letters issued etc.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Press release from DRD Committee following today’s meeting
    “Committee Chairperson, Fred Cobain MLA, said today: “The Committee has identified a number of serious concerns. The Minister briefed the Committee on 15 March 2010 on the outcome of the Independent Review Team’s report into procurement governance in Northern Ireland Water. At that time, the Committee accepted the report on the basis of the evidence presented and the Minister’s briefing, and we supported the Minister’s actions to protect the public purse.

    “Since we received that briefing, the independence of the review team’s report has been called into question, and the Committee will be seeking to assure itself that the production of the Independent Review Team’s report was robust and transparent. To that end, we will be taking the following steps.

    “We will be meeting the Minister on 1 September 2010. At that meeting we will be asking the Minister to explain to the Committee, with the utmost clarity, developments since he briefed us on the Independent Review Team’s report on 15 March 2010. We will also be asking him to set out the further action he proposes to take.

    “We will also speak to any others the Committee thinks necessary.”

    “These matters came to light following PAC’s evidence session on procurement governance in Northern Ireland Water in June this year, and we are all aware of the media coverage there has been this week. For this reason, next Monday the Deputy Chairperson and I are meeting with the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, to be briefed on their work, to request access to the information in their possession and to establish how both Committees can best address their concerns.

    “There is no doubt that the current situation is serious, and we will continue to prioritise this matter. We welcome the promptness with which Malcolm McKibbin has been put in place as temporary permanent secretary of DRD, and wish him well in what we know are challenging times.”

  • Atticussed

    The RD committee members may well be concerned about the allegations about the Department, but I can’t imagine that they were too surprised by the revelations about the “independent” report on NIW. For many years politicians and mandarins who wanted to get rid of senior managers in public sector organisations have used the strategy of commissioning an “independent” review of the organisation.
    Since no organisation is perfect, a review is guaranteed to turn up some flaws which can then be presented in a “damning report” (a recent local example that some committee members will remember was the report that led to a purge of senior Assembly managers in 2007). However, when closely examined, these reports can turn out to have very weak foundations – in the present instance several correspondents have pointed out that despite all the talk about £28 million there has been no actual loss. Nevertheless, reviews normally achieve their intended outcome and provide a useful excuse for moving or removing senior management.
    What the committee may well find different about this case is the alleged existence of documentary evidence that the Department (a) tried to influence the IRT’s recommendations and (b) began to plan recruitment arrangements before the IRT had concluded its review.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Stand by for yet more explosive revelations on NI Water from Jamie Delargy on UTV Live at 6pm this evening.”

  • D.A.

    I assume these explosive revelations will be those just disclosed by Martina Purdy on Evening Extra, which show that Priestly actually *drafted* Peter Dixon’s letter to the PAC. Good Lord.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Always good to see Mrs Huston, wife of one of our leading tax accountants get involved.
    Before being a member of the Northern Irelands Womens Coalition she was a member of the Conservative Party.
    And before that a direct entrant as an Inland Revenue Inspector.
    Im not sure which of these roles qualifies her as the Appointments Commissioner. Indeed she also serves on something similar for the House of Lords.

  • William Markfelt

    May we gather from this that Dixon was just doing second-hand apoplexy, in his legal threats to McGlone, Dallat and Purvis?

    Dixon is toast now, too.

    What credibility does a ‘high flier’ at the top of a major company have if he is getting his anger drafted by a civil servant? LOL.


    He just looks like a berk (as if Gerry Loughran’s laidback put down of Dixon hadn’t done that already).

    If I were on the board at Phoenix, I’d be asking questions right now, about Dixon’s future, behaviour and apparent position in the back-pocket of Paul Priestly.

    Really, are there any of the utility companies that don’t have a Priestly yes-man in their ranks?

  • D.A.,”On the day after the broadcast, Minister Conor Murphy is told Mr Priestly was involved in penning the controversial Peter Dixon letter to the PAC. This leads to the DRD official being suspended.” BelTel, Aug 19

  • Pigeon Toes

    No apparently Dixon added the legal threat all by his “wee selfie”

  • D.A.


    Apologies, I should have made it clear that Martina’s revelations were the contents of the email, and the draft document itself, rather than the existence of those and the fact that Priestly wrote them.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Now I’m going to lay Devil’s Advocate.

    Is it possible that Paul Priestly felt that he had got Dixon into a mess, and was helping through some sense of misplaced “civil service mindset” loyalty?

  • mumblin’ away

    it’s tangential but, if MLAs were interested in re-opening that saga, there is “documentary evidence” that Willie Hay was directing that ‘independent’ review from its outset and it is a matter of record that he had moved to appoint an Interim Clerk almost two months before the Review Team reported – in direct contravention of the provisions of Standing Orders. However Declan Gormley enjoys the freedom of a member of the public. The mugs who got turned over at the Assembly were middle-ranking civil servants who had to go quietly. Whilst some of the political journalists who work in that place recognised that something was amiss none of them pursued the issue. Is anyone starting a list of dodgy reviews? How far back do you want to go? Will the media enjoy exposing the reality that they haven’t been arsed digging into any of these scams? Or was the political deal so precarious that you couldn’t put Hay in the dock with (or before) Priestly lest the whole charade fell apart? If anyone digs, they’ll find a link to the Audit Office in that story too.

  • Wonder could someone help i’ve a letter from Mr Priestly offering the appointment of a NED.

    After this which is a quote from the letter who is employing and paying the NED’s ?

    “The appointment will not confer status as an employee of either NI Water or DRD”

  • What if i was to tell you all i’ve a letter from Felicity Houston to Lian Pattereon supporting the arrangements for the appointment of the New NED’s ??

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Is it possible that Paul Priestly felt that he had got Dixon into a mess, and was helping through some sense of misplaced “civil service mindset” loyalty?’

    Well, if these relationships were strictly professional, and subscribed to sound ethics, the small matter of ‘having got him into a mess’ wouldn’t have arisen.

    As the crux of the whole issue, arising months before, was sound professional ethics, it seems astoundingly stupid to even contemplate a situation where your own ‘sound professional ethics’ were compromised.

    Of course, the whole thing comes back to McKenzie, whose relationship with NIW’s board had ‘broken down’. On what grounds? That they were incompetent? That McKenzie was an autocrat or simply being a dickhead?

    I have my theories, but I’ll refrain from laying them out for now. In essence, though, interference with proper governance of NIW lies at the heart of it. A sort of governmental sedition by a bunch of cronies, each increasingly evident as the authors of each other’s destruction.

  • And another email from CPA NI asking DRD that when they announce the appointments to make sure the press included that the process had been discussed between DRD & CPA NI

    So whats is Ms Huston playing at ??

    From the Newsletter

    The commissioner for public appointments, Felicity Houston, said that she had asked the DRD for a report into the appointments but stressed: “There is no reason to believe that the process didn’t apply with the principles of my code. But due to the public interest in the process, I have asked for a report and will deal with it when it comes out.”

  • William Markfelt

    I’d say that the mutual masturbation evident in all of these bodies continues.

    Is there a point to asking for a report if you’ve already reached your conclusions?

    Another one who is part of the problem, rather than the solution.

    Honestly, each time ANYONE speaks on this matter, it seems as though they become tainted by their comments, almost to the point where ‘the system’ (in the shape of ‘suits’ all feeding off one another in a cosy little series of overlapping relationships) is circling its wagons.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘will deal with it when it comes out.”’

    Surely the consumer is entitled to expect a robust examination and response prior to the report coming out.

    How many £k a year for this waffle?

    Keep going, Flick, and we’ll arrive at the conclusion that the CC simply exists as a sop to the idea that you’re on ‘our’ side.

  • William Markfelt


    that the ‘Appointments Commissioner has some sense of independence from f the loved-up ‘Friends’ in these quangos’, maybe makes more sense.

    Sorry, looking at the Consumer Council’s mumblings while commenting on the Appointments Commissioner. My mistake for working on two posts side by side and applying the wrong sentence to the one intended. 🙁

  • The commissioner for public appointments knew about the appointment process all along and infact has questions to answer

  • William Markfelt

    The Consumer Council have steamed in with fulsome praise for the ‘decisive action’ by Bruce Robinson in appointing an interim, temporary, Permanent Secretary.

    It’s hardly encouraging for the consumer if you’re making a bed with a civil service do dysfunctional as to be worthless, and some sort of interim appointment in a cock up of unprecedented magnitude. It is hard to escape the idea that the CC are simply a sop to the idea that they’re on ‘our’ side but are, in fact, just as much part of the problem rather than the solution.

  • William Markfelt

    All her answers appear to be in place already.

    It’s in the spirit of the code, apparently.

    Any supplemental information to this would appear to be pointless.

  • Sam Flanagan

    You may find this instructive, it reveals the pattern the ruling elite use to deceive and lead the public up the garden path. “The Traitors.”
    The only people allowed into key public offices are those approved by “the elite,”

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ms Houston is on record 18 months ago as appealing to the Public at large to get involved in the community.

    seemingly its limited as people who serve on one public body then apply to join another one so obviously we need to get additions to the Database of people willing to serve. As I am now retired I have written to Felicity outlining my amazing CV and urge other Slugger commenters to do the same.
    We are genuinely helping the Community as we all know the “Establishment” is extremely anxious that appointments come from a field that is much too limited.
    The Commissioners Office is at
    Dundonald House BT4 3SB
    Who knows..we might end up on the same Board.