I have no comment to make, other than to note the very narrowness of the Terms of Reference and quote the glorious Yes Minister, wh0se insights pepper this whole story from start to finish:
“We dare not allow politicians to establish the principle that senior civil servants can be removed for incompetence. We could lose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds maybe. Even thousands.”
TERMS OF REFERENCE
- Following allegations of irregularities around the awarding of procurement contracts in Northern Ireland Water (a government owned company), the Department for Regional Development (DRD) commissioned an Independent Review Team to carry out a review of the circumstances surrounding these alleged irregularities. The role of the Independent Review Team was discussed, inter alia, at the Northern Ireland Public Accounts Committee hearing on the Governance of NI Water held on 1 July 2010 attended by DRD officials including Paul Priestly, DRD Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer.
- Subsequently, a member of the Independent Review Team wrote to the Public Accounts Committee criticising how the hearing was conducted. As a result of his role in this correspondence Mr Priestly was suspended from duty on 17 August 2010 under paragraph 7.1 of section 6.03 of the NICS HR Handbook to allow an investigation to be carried out in line with paragraph 4.1 of section 6.03 of the NICS HR Handbook.
- As Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service I have asked you to undertake this investigation. It should be carried out expeditiously bearing in mind the need for a full and proper investigation and consideration of all the facts of the case. The output of this investigation will be a report to be submitted to me which will establish the facts regarding the conduct of Mr Priestly and any other civil servant in relation to the letter of 5 July 2010.
- The report will include your comment on whether you believe there may have been any misconduct, including breaches of relevant standards of conduct, terms and conditions of appointment, and in Mr Priestly’s case, his personal responsibilities as Accounting Officer and Head of Department.