NI Water: Systemic failure yes, but whose?

The NI Water problem has remained stubbornly unnamed and unnameable. Watergate would be the most obvious ‘gate’ choice, but that’s already taken.

We know that the Permanent Secretary, the first in the history of the state of Northern Ireland, has been suspended (see also Eamonn’s blow by blow) for vicariously attacking the Public Accounts Committee (through the offices of Phoenix Gas), over its questioning of the IRT and then deleting the evidence that he had done so.

So first thing which has to be clarified before all others is: does NI Water have a problem with procurement, or not?

Interestingly,  Slugger understands that Mr McKenzie in a detailed letter to the Utility Regulator on 4th February, assures Iain Osbourne that there is “no deep concern” about compliance across the business. 

If that was the view of the CEO after the IRT was convened, why hold the Board held responsible for something the CEO informs the regulator is not a serious matter.

And this one (DRD Email dated 1oth June, 2010), for instance, demonstrates just how closely the CEO of NI Water, the DRD’s senior management team and the Comptroller and Auditor General were working together in the run up to the PAC’s hearing on the 1st July.

There is also a mention from McKenzie in which he gives three weeks notice of the intention of the Belfast Telegraph to run a series of pieces in the run up to the PAC.

Tomorrow the new Board are due to meet. One of the matters on their agenda, we understand, is a proposal to endorse Laurence McKenzie as CEO.  That would surely be a mistake whilst so many matters are currently ongoing and unresolved.

Of course, NI Water is entitled to get to a point where a line can be drawn under a traumatic past. But how can the  interim Board commit to its business with confidence when there are untold stray pieces of information still lurking in the undergrowth?

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