NI Water: “How did PwC get it so wrong?”

On Friday, Diana Rusk had an interesting take on the NI Water issue.

She highlights a memo from last April in which the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, responds to a request for an explanation for why Price-Waterhouse Coopers awarded Northern Ireland Water exemplar status on its procurement practice, when the same organisation has just sacked its Board for the same issue.

The questions sharpen somewhat when you take into account that PwC have a number of those £28 million worth of contracts thought by the Department’s Independent Review Team to have been ‘irregularly awarded’.

Now no one should infer that there was anything illegal, or even necessarily improper, here. That question appears to have been raised early on by the Auditor General and then quietly dropped in later correspondence. Even Messers Priestly and McKenzie could not claim at the PAC that anything had been done which actually breached the law.

But it raises (once again) the problem of closed loop reviews, in which there are obvious conflicts of interest. Like the Auditor General briefing the department before the PAC meeting, given the Audit Office is supposed to be independent, it doesn’t read well after the fact.

Besides, how can we take the PwC report passing everything at NI Water, at face value when another ‘independent’ player (the IRT) claims there is a serious problem? If one is right, surely the other is wrong?

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  • William Markfelt

    ‘request for an explanation for why Price-Waterhouse Coopers awarded Northern Ireland Water exemplar status on its procurement practice, when the same organisation has just sacked its Board for the same issue.’

    I’m guessing, but it may be to do with Exemplar status being awarded for a financial, or calendar, year, and may have been based on ‘evidence’ found to grant it such status.

    I assume PwC worked from internal NIW figures, or maybe
    did their own audit to see if NIW qualified, and they passed, so the Exemplar status was awarded.

    The fact that the board had been sacked is incidental. I would also assume PwC would have egg on their face by withdrawing Exemplar status (it just would have made their work looks shoddy).

    So they press on in the expectation that their work was correct. As we’ve seen, the sacking of the board for procurement failures isn’t, yet, evidence of actual procurement failures. The entire affair is based on one man’s twitching antennae.

    Maybe Diane Rusk needs to ask the question from the other direction: How did McKenzie’s antennae get it so wrong?

    What we’re seeing is a number of people not have any great concerns about procurement (up to and including the awarding of Exemplar status) and a much lesser body of evidence, yet, of clear failures. At least not that which has entered the public domain.

    I’d work on the basis that PwC did their sums and found that Exemplar status was justified. And they aren’t going to alter that just because it’s the issue on which the board was sacked.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘given the Audit Office is supposed to be independent’

    Government stooges.

    There is nothing remotely independent about the NIAO, and we need to see about shutting the whole shoddy affair down.

    ‘how can we take the PwC report passing everything at NI Water, at face value when another ‘independent’ player (the IRT) claims there is a serious problem? If one is right, surely the other is wrong?’

    Yes. I’m backing PwC on being right (and, lest we forget, NIW’s own internal audits don’t appear to have turned up anything of concern). Which, as I’ve already said above, is why PwC ploughed on with Exemplar status. They didn’t award it just so they, PwC, could look stupid.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Surely the PWCs analysis would have provided a valid line of defense for the sacked NEDs, if they had of been given a chance to defend themselves.

  • malairt

    Oooh, now, William. I’m disappointed to see you refer to Mr. MacKenzies insectile appendages after your wee outburst the other day!

  • William Markfelt

    OK. His ‘gut instinct’ then.

  • malairt

    “the sacking of the board for procurement failures isn’t, yet, evidence of actual procurement failures”

    That is a very nice turn of phrase, William. Sums things up nicely.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Well you would have thought so… Thing is the RDC weren’t prepared to listen to any defence.

    Others who have pointed gaping holes to RDC, passed the new material to PAC, who passed it to NIAO, which (unsurprisingly in light of the NIW saga), came back with a “still nothing to see here” type response.

  • interested

    Were PWC also the management consultants that advised Government earlier on the model to be adopted in setting up NIW?

  • Mick Fealty

    McK’s own words to the PAC malairt…

  • Mick Fealty

    One of them. The lead consultancy was Deloitte, I think… The consultancy whose senior partner was on the IRT…

  • It depends what PWC was looking at. It its September 2009 report on a number of CoPEs it makes the following qualification:

    “2.101 However, in order for the tool to remain relevant in the future, there needs to be a review of the CoPE assessment tool to bring it up to date with procurement good practice and current standards at the present time. Scoring and maturity levels need to be reassessed and exemplar status at the present time. Scoring and maturity levels need to be reassessed and exemplar status reassigned to reflect required procurement standards from 2009 onwards.”

    NIW (Water Service) was well behind the field of 8 in the 2005/6 review but had overtaken the Housing Executive by 2009. Translink was well ahead of the field in 2009.

    I can find no mention of the term ‘single tender contract’. Perhaps it goes by a different name in the PWC report.

  • barnshee

    Yes. I’m backing PwC on being right “”

    Er not really PWC had snouts firmly in the trough–history is littered with situations where the “auditors” also in receipt of “consultancy” fees “missed” problems elsewhere. Try the Poly Peck saga recently in the news for a good example

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2003/may/01/7

  • William Markfelt

    Well, right in this instance, barnshee.

    I’m fully convinced that this is now a situation where it’s a raft of evidence against the gut instinct of one man who doesn’t appear to have made any effort to back up that instinct. Neither have the IRT produced documentary evidence of wrongdoing into the public domain.

    It’s funny how a lot of contrary evidence, online videos, emails, memos, statements, etc are all pointing one way, that this has been nothing more than a power game that has gone badly wrong.

    It has already, probably, cost Priestly’s career (but I’ll bet they reinstate him in a stalled, sideways, slightly backwards position), cast doubt on the future of Kieran Donnelly at NIAO, Lian Patterson at DRD and Antoinette McKeown at NICC. It looked to have cost McKenzie’s but he’s fighting back by loading the NIW board with his own stooges to build his own wee fiefdom in Westland Road. Which now appears to have been the original point of the exercise.

    It looks like McKenzie played Priestly for a sucker.

  • “loading the NIW board with his own stooges”

    William, the Executive Team was scaled down in November and is now called the Executive Committee; online minutes were discontinued around the same time which idicates a preference for the opposite of ‘openness and transparency’. The minutes have now been reinstated but cut from 6 – 8 pages to 2.

    The Board now has an extra ED and an extra NED. As for stooges, the apparently rather too close involvement of the Minister’s Special Advisor in the NED selection process and the ‘conversations with a purpose’ has produced a grand opening for cronyism. The Office of the Public Appointments Commissioner and the Consumer Council seem reluctant to dig too deeply into the selection process; ditto our MLAs.

  • malairt

    PwC won the contract to set up the new Category Management Purchasing team in 2007. Recruited the people and kicked off the savings programme.

  • malairt

    “Extra NED and Exec Director” I thought 4 NED’s got fired and 4 were added?

    Who is the extra Exec?

  • Malairt, 4 were sacked and 5 were appointed.

    MacKenzie, Larkin, Butler and Ellesmere have been joined on the Board by Sarah Venning; she joined NIW from NIE in April 2010.

  • Jj

    “It has already, probably, cost Priestly’s career (but I’ll bet they reinstate him in a stalled, sideways, slightly backwards position), cast doubt on the future of Kieran Donnelly at NIAO, Lian Patterson at DRD and Antoinette McKeown at NICC.”

    …and the person with direct responsibility for safeguarding the public shareholding in NIW? I know its only a notional arrangement but these shares in any other environment would now be worthless!

  • malairt

    Ah, I see where you’re coming from.

    Ellesmere isn’t an Executive Director, he’s Company Secretary.
    Ms Venning replaced David Dangerfield who resigned in late 2009.

    So the numbers are the same as they’ve always been: 4 Execs and 5 NED’s.

  • malairt

    Oooh no, I disagree. There’s still £6 billion in replacement cost assets out there, there’s still 1.7 million people using the service every day and a nice income stream that you can reliably project forward to infinity.

    No I would not say the shares are worthless at all!

  • Malairt, I was misled by the layout of the old team!!

    There are 6 NEDs: White, Steele, McDonald, Ó Muilleoir, Bunting and Price.

  • malairt, was NIW not downgraded to £1 billion while it was a GoCo and then put back to £6 billion when it was reclassified as a NDPB?

  • William, it seems we need too many examples of NIAO being ‘pushed back’ before commentators get the picture. I’ve referred to this on quite a few occasions during these past two years.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed M,

    And thereby hangs *yet* another tale of intrigue…

  • interested

    what! its a regional monopoly whose income is determined by its management (of course endorsed by a Government appointed tame regulator)-how can that be worthless!!

  • sammymehaffey

    Is it not time that NIW Translink and all the rest of the ‘public’ bodies were sold off and left to live in a commercial world. then we wouldnt need PWC Deloitte, NEDS, PP, Connor M and the rest of the blood suckers, NICC NIAO. For goodness sake we have a pouluation of a small city yet we need an bueratic infrasructure that could service a substantial country.
    Madness Madness and we dont need a bloody Parliament of 110 other layabouts.
    A county council of 20 councelors would suffice.
    Spare me!

  • sammymehaffey

    Is it not time that NIW Translink and all the rest of the ‘public’ bodies were sold off and left to live in a commercial world. then we wouldnt need PWC Deloitte, NEDS, PP, Connor M and the rest of the blood suckers, NICC NIAO. For goodness sake we have a pouluation of a small city yet we need an bueratic infrasructure that could service a substantial country.
    Madness Madness and we dont need a bloody Parliament of 110 other layabouts.
    A county council of 20 councelors would suffice.
    Spare me!

  • interested
  • John Simpson speaks up for some ‘sensitive souls’:

    “With parliamentary scrutiny, the concept of legal privilege has an honourable place. However, while parliamentary scrutiny should be challenging, it should be used with care. Opinions which would be libellous if used in public should be the exception and usually offered only in circumstances where a response is possible.

    Events in recent years have done more to deter senior business people from offering to accept non-executive roles than to attract them. Explicit unmerited or unsubstantiated public criticism and/or unbalanced media reporting are contributory causes. That is an unwelcome indirect cost on the whole community.” Bel Tel Aug 31

    He doesn’t mention that he sits on the board of the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Enterprise Council with two of the new NIW NEDs: White and Ó Muilleoir.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘we dont need a bloody Parliament of 110 other layabouts.’

    Isn’t Wales about a third as large again, in terms of population, with about 2/3rds of our ‘parliamentarians’?

    Which MLA has the gonads to table a motion demanding a reduction in the number of MLAs to about 70? Which MLA would have the gonads to vote for it?

    Gravy train.

  • interested

    Sammy you are right -we all want to reduce the burden of government-but the system must deliver good governance at political and at company level and the events reported in this saga certainly call the governance of this monopoly operation into question.

  • Pigeon Toes

    The fact that NIW was awarded COPE status, whilst at the same time being internally investigated fro procurement breaches has surely been at the heart of this matter?

    Were that team made aware of the ongoing internal review/Investigation?

    Why did Laurence accept this “award”, if indeed his “gut instinct” told him there was something amiss?

    Should he also have blown the whistle to that IRT?

    Why wasn’t DRD informed at that stage of his “concerns” that PCW were perhaps not doing *their* job properly.

    The closer one looks “it stinks”

    Though mind you in that particular case the internal report was seemingly buried and the whistle blowers allegations found to be without foundation…
    “Northern Ireland Water (NIW) must toughen up its procedures in relation to staff taking new jobs outside the organisation in order to protect the company’s reputation, an internal report has revealed.
    The recommendation stems from an investigation into a case where an NIW employee involved in awarding a contract to an outside company then went on to take a senior job with that company soon afterwards.
    Both the individual and the company were cleared of any wrongdoing, but the investigation said “learning points” had emerged.
    At the time the employee was bound by civil service rules on the appropriate authorisation he needed to take such a job.
    His line manager approved the move, but the report said that was “not strictly in accordance” with the rules….
    ..The investigation was launched after a senior manager received an anonymous letter in May 2009 from an employee who alleged the matter “stinks”.
    However, the inquiry did not find any evidence to support the whistleblower’s allegations.
    Strong feelings expressed by a number of staff in relation to the contract were “based on hearsay within the office”, it found.
    During the investigation, the head of the firm which won the contract revealed he had a long-standing friendship with the NIW employee, who later went on to work for him.
    The report found that at the time of the tendering process, no process was in place for potential conflicts of interest to be disclosed.
    Since April 2009, NIW employees on procurement panels have had to sign a conflict of interest document….
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8531775.stm

  • Pink Lady

    Nevin – John Simpsons article in tonights Bel Tel should be welcomed. This is so much more balanced, and looking at the bigger picture than some newspaper articles have been.

    Under the headline ”Tide is turning for public sector” he states ”Several senior people have been affected by the decisions emerging from NI Water and the continuing close scrutiny. How can unfair damage be avoided? Will the ability to recruit expertise for public companies be hit?”

    Is it just me or is he saying: ”the tide is turning on this story” ”Several senior people have been affected by the decisions emerging from NI Water and the continuing close scrutiny by Mick Fealty, Jamie Delargy and the others who have worked hard to uncover the real story. Will the PAC determine how and why this all happened and how future unfair damage can be avoided? The ability to recruit expertise for public companies has been hit” ?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Since April 2009, NIW employees on procurement panels have had to sign a conflict of interest document….’

    Conflict of interest declarations have been commonplace in other government organisations longer than that. That didn’t, and doesn’t, since April 2009, seem to deter them from ignoring obvious conflicts of interest. Why would it be different in NIW?

    Marriage and ‘pillow talk’? Yet no conflict of interest declarations? The minutes of board meetings, and connecting the dots, demonstrates that THIS, as well as other dubious relationships, are set in place. (nb: this claim isn’t connected to NIW, but other government agencies)

  • interested

    where is Declan Gormley, his role and his reputation in all of this stuff from John Simpson

  • Pigeon Toes

    I know, and they wren’t always signed for each new competition… Oh take a guess at the department involved (as I grind the axe, just a little bit more)

  • Pigeon Toes

    Indeed…

    “Hardly a month passes without some new revelation about the abuse, misuse or neglect of public funds. In our Nanny State, people complain about anything and everything. Do they realise, do they care, that every minute spent investigating their complaints is paid from the public purse?”

    Eh???

    In other words “stop complaining about the misuse of public money, as it costs public money to further cover up the misuse”

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/ed-curran/how-all-the-inquiries-are-just-pouring-money-down-the-drain-14928707.html

  • Pigeon Toes

    Yes they care, otherwise they would not complain.. I’m sure quite a few citizens with the appropriate skills and experience would be happy to volunteer for such inquiries at zero cost…

  • DC

    Interesting article and it seems bluff seems to have caught out the private sector in Paris, thinking the municipality wouldn’t take it back on to public books. But, bang the powers that be did and good on them.

    It’s all to do with the stages of reform. I think absolutely any system is prone to stagnation, lethargy, complacency and in the end corruption.

    I think private sector involvement in running services and in some processing parts is right for much of Northern Ireland’s public sector. Given the period we are coming out of, 35 plus years of little intervention in that area. A lot of dead wood is about. This is the right time to shake things up with private sector interaction and exchange.

    As far as i can recall Paris always did have half decent and continuous investment in its sewerage system, the sewers are open to the public. I should know as I went down there and walked about them – as I had an uncle in Paris who lived and worked there and have been countlesss times. Good piece of engineering those sewers.

    The real problem is to do with the lack of churn in public sector appointments in that there is hiring – but firing is difficult and a lot of mediocrity just gets circulated. Basically there is a tendency in the public sector to skew towards permanence over performance which brings about stagnation and under-performance as the by-product. There is also a chance that rather than fess up to mistakes a lot of smoke is blown over the innards of public services and then when individual employees get found out, the outcome: central government privatises. On the basis that – stuff it the private sector may not deliver them better but they might do it cheaper.

    With people living longer and with graduates being frozen out of appointments and losing access to relevant work experience, I think it wont be too long till the levy breaks – and the permanence of public sector contracts at senior management level ended. 5 year renewable contracts should become the norm. Or else the creative destruction of the private sector will take over service delivery.

    But the article about Paris is useful. Every dog has its day and sector likewise and the time seemed to ripe for clawing back profits directly onto the public sector accounts than shareholders etc. I reckon the same approach is needed for the banking sector more public involvement and less private, less smart arsed individuals walking off with the many many billions!

  • DC

    typo – *levee

  • William Markfelt

    DR…..something of other.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘In other words “stop complaining about the misuse of public money, as it costs public money to further cover up the misuse”’

    Yeah, well, the voice of reason from someone who sits on a quango.

    Here’s an idea, John, STFU and resign your paid position on such a body. That’ll save a few bob.

    Walk the walk, rather than talk the talk.

  • William Markfelt

    Ah sorry, it’s Ed Curran babbling, rather than John Simpson (who is probably babbling somewhere about something anyway)

  • mopp head

    File this one under wrong end of stick. PwC did not “get it wrong”, nor is there any conflict with IRT findings. Sorry to break the news, conspiracy shop guys. What was at fault was DFP’s COPE (centre of procurement excellence) system, which is now under review. It did not involve an audit, but a mere box ticking to confirm that proper procedures were drawn up. There was no checking that the procedures were actually being followed ie no audit work.

  • William Markfelt

    Some citizens might actually welcome the opportunity to PAY to sit on such inquiries, in order to ask appropriate questions.

    Consider it to be ‘civic responsibility’.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘PwC did not “get it wrong”’

    Yeah. I already said that above. First or second post in this thread.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Ach is it all CPD/DFP fault?

    Hmm funny they keep their correspondence as per the data retention policy… Just a thought!

    Gosh Mopp, you are awfully knowledgeable, perhaps PAC should be asking the questions of you..

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Will the ability to recruit expertise for public companies be hit?”

    Declan Gormley, in the UTV programme, thought so.

    Of course, how you determine ‘expertise’ is an entirely different kettle of fish.

    Some of us have ‘expertise’ in being a mate to surgeons, but it hardly makes us qualified to be involved in a bit of heart surgery.

    And in this instance (and many others) it appears that being a mate to the surgeon qualifies us better than being a dab hand with a scalpel.

  • William Markfelt

    Steady on, PT, before you volunteer people for PAC, because…

    If PWC didn’t get it wrong, as Mopp says, then (as Mick also says) the IRT got it wrong.

    But last week Mopp, as I recall, was arguing IRT were correct in their conclusions and those of us going into bat for Mellor et al were wrong.

    And now he’s arguing that we’re wrong for being right. In essence. Or maybe right while being wrong.

  • DC

    Basically – if I were to sum it up I would say there is a significant amount of political economy in Northern Ireland (66% of the economy is public-sector run). There is a need for more private sector involvement even if it is still public money given over via offering contracts – it does shift the debate inside workplaces away from political economy to market economy. Or at least its style is more in tune with market based practices than the planned political economy.

    Besides Ireland’s problems have centred around Statehood and actions of the State – simple way to reshape attitudes is by giving the private sector a remit in delivering some or relevant bits of state services. In my view, only those that are highly consumer orientated. Outcome: reformed minds in the workplace and an outlook towards commercialisation. Hopefully stimulating more small businesses as a result. Getting NI back on its feet again – less dependence on central government subsidy.

    In Northern Ireland this is something that needs further development, more private sector development. I say this as a Labour (more New Labour) sympathiser, but I still think it the right thing to do at this stage given the high dependence on public sector.

    But every dog has its day and this is not by any means a standard to be maintained ad infinitum, which is why I found that little article about Paris water – Eau de Paris – very refreshing! In fact I long for the day there is more of that kind of action – particularly so in the bloody banking sector. More public / national profiting is needed there in that industry.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Although Mopp, that indeed might make sense, as far as DRD are concerned, but doesn’t get them off the hook by a long shot…
    Cheers.. Thanks… go raibh maith agat…. etc

  • Pigeon Toes

    William,
    Posted in around the same time 🙂

  • The Raven

    With all due respect, Nevin, the NIAO is quite a costly part of government; indeed its budget has increased by around half a million quid each year over the last few years. I am still not sure what role they play in anything, other than take up a lot of time which could be otherwise better spent.

    I had time for their role over the past fifteen years when receipts in certain central government departments were still being written on Post-its. But now? I’m not so sure. Not at the cost they are.

  • Mick Fealty

    The phrase and the question was the Minster of Finance’s, not mine. PwC did not get it wrong in the same way that three internal audits did not get it wrong when they found no evidence of a substantial problem with procurement inside NI Water.

    There is no real evidence of NI Water getting anything majorly wrong in procurement. That only happens when the IRT sits and uses *provisional* findings from the procurement review.

    Findings which the Board get no sight of, and which do not conclude until two days after the IRT issues its final report on 25th February. And even then the report continues to be amended thereafter.

    The problem is that throughout this period the Chairman’s reluctance to let the IRT have sight of an unfinished report is consistently mischaracterised in the virtual paper trail as ‘interference’…

    Something which the IRT uses as a cornerstone justification in a submission (prompted by Priestly) to the PAC of their changes from draft 1 to draft 2… More on which later…

  • William Markfelt

    ‘And even then the report continues to be amended thereafter.’

    This appears to be absolutely routine and meetings where ‘it might be helpful’ would appear to be par for the course. And in this, it’s the NIAO’s role that requires the utmost scrutiny.

    The purpose of ‘helpful meetings’ is for what we already know: aspects of ‘investigations’ are discussed to maximise the guilt of the accused on the flimsiest pretext, cherry-picking evidence (Declan Gormley’s testimony missing, for example) and downgrading elements where departmental failings are too uncomfortable.

    NIAO are supposed to be independent, yet time and again we find that they’ve got their thumb jammed up the departmental ass.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11145647

    Conor Murphy is to meet the Finance Committee later today. According to the BBC ‘SDLP MLA Connall McDevitt said he and fellow Department for Regional Development (DRD) committee members wanted “some very clear answers” from the minister about his chief advisor’s suspension.

    “Most particularly we need to know whether he still stands over the independence of the independent review which led to the dismissal of four non-executive directors at NI Water,” he said.’

    Let us hope Mr McDevitt also raises questions about the independence of the NIAO.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘I am still not sure what role they play in anything’

    Does anyone know if the services they provide are open to anyone? Or is their role a de facto ‘single tender’?

    I can feel my antennae twitching.

  • mopp, thanks for providing some clarification to the point I raised at 5.04 pm above. I’ve posted a link there to the report.

    “NIW (Water Service) was well behind the field of 8 in the 2005/6 review but had overtaken the Housing Executive by 2009. Translink was well ahead of the field in 2009.”

  • Live coverage of the Regional Development Committee.

    Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy, and Dr Malcolm McKibbin, temporary head of the Department of Regional Development are briefing the committee on procurement governance for Northern Ireland Water.

    The committee will also be briefed by the Construction Employers Federation.”

  • 11.30 am – 12.30 pm

    Procurement Governance in Northern Ireland Water. (Malcolm McKibbin, Gary Fair and the Minister for Regional Development)

  • interested

    The logic of Brian Feeneys article in todays Irish News might suggest that Minister Murphy could also have had a hand in the process surrounding the questionable IRT report and its covert objectives

  • interested

    but Ive lost the thread on the relationship between McK and the imported NIE director mentioned earlier-any enlightenment out there

  • I wonder if he “had a hand” in the IRT report covering the Rathlin Ferry Contract?

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.u.tv/News/NI-Water-investgation-begins-in-October/abf6787c-c3c8-4561-b9b8-8f268f6d0925

    “The investigation, which is to be completed by the end of October, was announced by the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Bruce Robinson on Wednesday.

    In a statement Mr Robsinson said it will look at the events which followed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on Northern Ireland Water on 1 July 2010, at which Mr Priestly was asked to step down “in light of information which emerged on that date”.

    On Wednesday morning, Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy is to come face to face with an assembly committee at Stormont on Wednesday for the first time since the Northern Ireland Water scandal emerged.

    Committee member Conall McDevitt said the minister needs to clarify his handling of an independent review which led to the sacking of the directors at the meeting.

    “The minister needs to assure the committee that two major questions are being addressed,” the SDLP MLA told UTV.

    “The first is what happened that led him to seek the suspension of his permanent secretary.

    “The second is whether he still has confidence in the independent review team report which now has so many questions hanging over it.”

    A statement from the Regional Development Committee said that at the 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.

    “There is no doubt that the current situation is serious, and we will continue to prioritise this matter.”

    There is a feeling in some organisations that there needs to be an in depth review into exactly what was going on in DRD and with other Priestly commissioned Independent Reviews.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Interested
    Can you give us a brief outline of what he said.?

  • interested, the Minister has already indicated his involvement but Delargy didn’t extract the detail:

    Murphy (6.48 mins into his piece on UTV player): “.. so the core issue is here is that attention my attention was brought to the fact, initially in relation to one contract that there was something on-toward going on within NIW and I asked for further inquiries into that and that turned up 73 contracts with £24.5 million of awarding of contracts which couldn’t be defended which was done in an improper fashion”

    The Patterson-McDaid letter [18 March 2010] gives a flavour of the Minister’s SpAd’s role in the selection process for the interim NEDs.

  • interested

    balanced! – its waffle attempting to protect the existing vested interests –and just in time for the Assembly meeting

  • “There is a feeling in some organisations that there needs to be an in depth review into exactly what was going on in DRD and with other Priestly commissioned Independent Reviews.”

    So, in answer to my earlier posting, – it would appear so!

  • CRD stuck in a traffic jam in Downpatrick – running about 20 mins late 🙂

  • interested

    It would be dangerous to give outline-just a few snippets

    ending first
    “So pay attention to Conor Murphy and his efforts to break the old boys network. Its long overdue and you can tell hes having an effect from the people squealing, Theyre unionists who have been able to hold onto the reins of power in this place since direct rule came in, in 1972. Pay attention to whos being appointed to quangos and youll see the change”

    ” A couple of weeks ago, blogging from Hawaii(these Fenians are getting everywhere)Mairtin O Muilleoir raised the question of who was serving on the boards of state agencies, like Northern Ireland Water, for instance……..”

    that is the starting and ending paragraphs -reversed-there is much in between but these paras give the line being taken against us unionists!!!!!!!!!!! (was it something like the asylum and the Marquis de Sade)

  • William Markfelt

    ‘pay attention to Conor Murphy and his efforts to break the old boys network. Its long overdue and you can tell hes having an effect from the people squealing,’

    If that’s an actual quote then it’s the poorest of piss poor analysis as I’ve read…ever.

    Murphy’s calling the shots? It’s all politically motivated?

    Nothing to do with alleged procurement matters?

    What next? Feeney claiming it is all a Baldrick-like clever plan by Murphy as some ongoing ‘greening of NI’? SF moles were planted in NIW to create procurement concerns? I’m sorry, it’s just simply moronic.

  • malairt

    The accounting rules are different between a GoCo and an NDPB.

    I think it’s the difference between the market value of £1b, ie what someone would pay for it, and replacement value of £6b, based on the slightly unreal assumption that all the assets need to be replaced.

  • interested

    agree with your analysis DC-NI is also too small and the system has enabled a much too localised and introspective culture-not really engaged with Europe, for instance, even though benefiting hugely from funding transfers from both London and Brussels.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Mr Robsinson said it will look at the events which followed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on Northern Ireland Water on 1 July 2010, at which Mr Priestly was asked to step down “in light of information which emerged on that date”.’

    I would have imagined the obvious jumping on point was where McKenzie’s antennae twitched, and the conversations that flowed from that to instigate the IRT within days.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘There is a feeling in some organisations that there needs to be an in depth review into exactly what was going on in DRD and with other Priestly commissioned Independent Reviews.’

    Ah, no.

    Let’s go for a Public Inquiry instead.

  • malairt

    Sarah Vanning was Ops Director at NIE and is now Ops Director at NIW.

  • William Markfelt

    “Live coverage of the Regional Development Committee.’

    At 215pm, ‘the committee is sitting in private’.

    It appears there are some issues so corrupt at NIA level that the great unwashed can’t be permitted to hear them.

    ‘the Construction Employers Federation;

    Another quango with plush offices on the Malone Road whose staff are all doing well, thank you very much, on the toil of those who actually do break sweat.

  • McCavity

    As I pointed out previously (30Aug) the audit report as presented to the IRT would normally have drawn censure and identified required actions to be taken but not the dismissal of an entire board (cept one).

    As the Regulator and particularly NIAO would be well aware – if this standard for dismissal was applied universally many Boards and accounting officers would be packing their bags. NIAO have identified much more serious failings which have not resulted in anything other than censure if that!

    For reasons that are far from clear this audit report (which we must remember was carried out by the same team that had failed to pick up any such breaches prior to this audit and to detect the much much larger problems that have taken the Steria Contract to court,) has been blown out of all proportion to the actual findings or other government failings. No doubt this is why it is not being published.

    The fact that a report which at IRT identified 24 contracts has we are led to believe been augmented to include 70 or is it 73, or 78 contracts is not surprising. It would be clear to anyone that the audit report presented to the IRT (which is more of a comment on the audit team than anyone else) would not be seen as sufficient for the actions taken by the Minister when other government failings are taken into account.
    However if the Minister, NIAO and others are going to insist that this report warranted such actions then we the people should insist that all other government departments, goco’s quango’s that eat up our tax pounds immediately are judged on this same standard – bring on the audits !

    As for the disparity between PWC findings and this issue you have to remember that the PWC probably made their assessment based on NIW current practices where as the audit report has had to reach back to already changed practices and extinct contracts to justify their position and increase the numbers to something more sensational.

    No doubt all government entities need to get better at spending our money but the worst thing that can happen to NIW is to have a CEO in charge supported by a Board of yes men. When it comes to money our money conflict and challenge is good too much of this chumminess stuff is not good.

  • McCavity

    NIAO’s role and review of other IRT’s would also be important.

  • McCavity

    Now it would be interesting to see how that appointment was made – competitively ?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘NIAO’s role and review of other IRT’s would also be important.’

    I agree. So far NIAO seem to be ‘getting away with it’ (i.e. their patent failures and lack of independence).

    But as the affair seems ready to rumble on, daily, until mid-November at least (shortly after this investigation into Priestly and DRD concludes), I feel there is plenty of time in which to wait for the spotlight to swing around onto the NIAO.

    There may well be questions asked by PAC when they re-convene that swing the spotlight around very firmly onto PAC. And if it doesn’t, it will tell us much about PAC’s determination on the matter, or their willingness to challenge NIAO’s role in the round. A body of evidence is slowly mounting against NIAO.

  • The Raven

    William, the other option being putting out audit services to the private sector? I’d still believe it to be a waste of time.

    Anyway, they’re a wing of a government department. They undertake audits across most, if not all, of the public sector. They will cost £9m this year. They have around 140 staff. They spent £40,000 on consultants last year.

    And they compile reports. On anything that takes their fancy.

  • sammymehaffey

    William M
    I have followed this from thebeginning and I have come to the conclusion that you are much to close to the action to be objective.

  • William Markfelt

    Excuse me?

  • DC

    You’re excused.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I think Samy said yo were “too close to the “action”…

    Though judging by today’s performance “action” is hyperbole…

  • William Markfelt

    Yeah. I’m wondering how commentators on the internet are ‘too close to the action’.

    Of course, part of the problem lies in the minister, the civil service, various CEOs and so forth not, apparently, being close enough to the action, so maybe Sammy’s right.

  • Pigeon Toes

    William
    How would that tie in with the rest of Slugger?

    Might be just a bit impossible if ” you are too close to the action”?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Might be just a bit impossible if ” you are too close to the action”?’

    I guess everyone brings some degree of experience or knowledge to Slugger, on a variety of topics.

    Lucky Pete Baker. No one can accuse him of being ‘too close to the action’ regarding stuff he posts that’s several light years away.

  • Mike

    There was a particularly perverse opinion piece by Brian Feeney in today’s Irish News (surely worth one of Slugger’s bloggers unpicking it).

    Headed “Ability not loyalty must be the criteria for board selection”, Feeney’s piece cites Mairtin O Muilleoir’s blog-from-Hawaii which was also picked up, which talked about about ability coming second to loyalty in the past when it came to these sort of non-exec director posts.

    Feeney takes up O Muilleoir’s ball and runs with it, talks of how there was supposedly “no kind of selection process” even goes on about those horrible unionist councillors – with nary a nod to the fact that this was a former Sinn Féin councillor being appointed by a Sinn Féin Minister with little evident by way of selection process! (a little bit “jobs for the boys”, Brian, no…?)

    Breathtaking even by Feeney’s standards.

    Then there’s his closing paragraph…

    “So pay attention to Conor Murphy and his efforts to break the old boys’ network. It’s long overdue and you can tell he’s having an effect from the people squealing. They’re unionists who have been able to hold onto the reins of power in this place since direct rule came in, in 1972. Pay attention to who’s being appointed to quangos and you’ll see the change”.

    Now, is he referring to Slugger’s investigative work on Northern Ireland Water and DRD here? What do Sluggerites think?

    Maybe he’s referring to Declan Gormley? Or is he talking about John Dallat and Patsy McGlone? Pesky “unionists”.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Headed “Ability not loyalty must be the criteria for board selection”, Feeney’s piece cites Mairtin O Muilleoir’s blog-from-Hawaii which was also picked up, which talked about about ability coming second to loyalty in the past when it came to these sort of non-exec director posts.’

    I’m perturbed by the manner in which this party political angle is sneaking in, to the detriment of the much more important and wide-ranging issue of government ‘culture’ that the NIW affair has turned into a three ringed circus. And also perturbed by the emergent tribal faultlines.

    We should leave aside the tribal party politics and simply focus on Feeney’s heading.

    ‘Ability not loyalty must be the criteria’. So what does Feeney think has changed? It’s quite obvious that the NIW board is now stuffed with noddies loyal to McKenzie.

  • McCavity

    William Markfelt

    “I feel there is plenty of time in which to wait for the spotlight to swing around onto the NIAO”.

    I dont agree the PAC is depending to heavily on NIAO to give credence to the oral evidence given by Mackenzie and Priestly and the NIW audit report. The lack of independence of the NIAO in general can probably wait but in respect of this issue it needs to be investigated now.