Perhaps an unfortunate turn of phrase deployed by the Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, of a department whose Permanent Secretary has just been suspended pending investigation over the NI Water saga – ostensibly for surreptitiously drafting a letter of complaint to the PAC [for a third party].
Meanwhile, UTV’s Jamie Delargy reports that Northern Ireland Electricity has also been guilty of not putting out some contracts to competitive tendering.
While the proper process was followed with some of the contracts analysed, with others – particularly for legal services – PKF found: “Competitive tendering is the exception rather than the norm”.
The value of the improperly approved contracts is not disclosed but it is thought to be modest compared with the total uncovered at Northern Ireland Water.
Current Northern Ireland Water Chief Executive Laurence MacKenzie was in charge at NIE during most of the period when the contract failings occurred. [added emphasis]
“That’s something that should be of concern to Northern Ireland Water as they survey what they’ve been doing wrong because there’s such a parallel. Four people were sacked (from NI Water) because contracts were not put out to competitive tender when they should have been”, UTV’s Business Editor Jamie Delargy explained.
Four non-executive directors at Northern Ireland Water were fired in March, after an internal audit revealed contracts worth millions of pounds had been improperly approved.
NI Water Chief Executive Laurence MacKenzie was not one of those sacked by the Regional Development Minister in March.
On Monday, Regional Development Conor Murphy defended Mr MacKenzie.
“That was a matter for NIE; they’re a private company,” he told UTV.
“He (Laurence MacKenzie) is the person who came forward and said: ‘There are things going wrong in this company (Northern Ireland Water); they need to be addressed’; and on that basis we launched an investigation.”
That assumes that the IRT “got to the core of issues”…