NI Water: Why open government is more than a slogan for the chattering classes

There’s a very sharply observed piece by Denis Bradley in today’s Irish News, which aside from lauding the work of John Dallat and others on the PAC, an intelligent whistle-blower and some fine words about Slugger, he also let’s slip a few fundamental truths about where the blame lies. And it is not with the politicians:

“…it has caught the two governing parties on the hop. They didn’t see it coming. But anyone who has spent a few nights in the company of northern businessmen will have been anything but surprised. The more outspoken businessmen are saying that the real dirt is still to come. These are the businesses who don’t feel they are in the inner circle.”

He goes on to give Sinn Fein a dunt for not employing individuals outside their own trusted circles who could independently scrutinise the work of the departments under their care. That’s an argument that may have some merit, but only so far as it goes.

But… the Minister for Regional Development, every bit as much as any of his Executive colleagues in other parties, is dependent upon and responsible to the ‘permanent government’ (the career senior civil servants who govern the machine on the inside) for most of the information he is expected to officially disseminates to the wider public.

If someone (or even many people) screw up inside that ‘neutral’ machine then the system dictates it is the Minister who bears the brunt of public anger, and not necessarily the people actually responsible for making the mistake(s) in the first place.

The scale and complexity of the evidence that’s been under consideration here on Slugger for the last two months highlights how unreasonable it is for politicians to continue to take the rap when their highly-paid civil servants breach the trust placed in them to do their job in a selfless way.

The terms of reference chosen for the investigation of Paul Priestly probably reflect the shock being felt within the civil service, as much any attempt to unfairly limit further damage.  But it says much about the unaccountability of the government machine that this is only the second such suspension in the whole 150 year history of the British Civil Service.

Certainly in the case of NI Water, some of the most senior guardians of the state appear not to understand the complex mathematics of procurement (of which a great deal more anon) and the fine granular detail of what’s involved in contracting private specialists.

And this is before we even get to the almost designed to be unmanageable PPP deals that litter government across these islands.

But back to Bradley, who finishes by getting to the nub of one of the more significant underlying problems in the NI Water:

…this place has been through a lot, and the Brits, the Irish and the EU have and are throwing a lot of money at the problem. How that money is distributed and who gets the contracts to carry out the commissioned work needs to be clear, open and available to everyone – irrespective of who they are or who they know.

The PAC already has something 3000 pieces of paper to get through, furnished from inside various government departments. It will further review evidence from Declan Gormley and Chris Mellor, along with copious documents and information drawn out by FOI from some of the more active members of the committee.

You can be sure that some very stringent questions will be asked at their next open session.

At last at least one of the safeguarding institutions of Stormont has begun to wake to its own responsibilities. In doing so, they must not get distracted by petty party politics, but keep their collective eye firmly and resolutely on the civil service ball, and resist to the end the urge to begin cannibalising one another.

One swallow does not make a summer. Our fledging democrats will have a long way to go after this saga completes itself. But at least some of them have begun to realise they as elected politicians have legislative teeth with which to bite back.

They don’t just have to take it any more.

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  • Pod

    Did you see Brain Feeney’s article in the Irish News this week Mick???

  • Mick Fealty

    I did.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘The more outspoken businessmen are saying that the real dirt is still to come. These are the businesses who don’t feel they are in the inner circle.’

    Denis Bradley’s analysis is correct. There are those who aren’t in the ‘inner circle’, but it begs the question as to whether those businessmen would feel the same if they were invited into it. I suspect their grumbling might cease, so we need to view their opinions with a slightly jaundiced eye.

    We should hope that there is something more of a meritocratic approach to procurement of business. The reality is that there isn’t, and there are favourites who enjoy the largesse of many public sector organisations because they’re mates or because they fill envelopes at the right time. This goes on all the time.

    We should also not be slow to recognise that there is an undercurrent of rampant, and sometimes out of control sectarianism in the way in which work is doled out. Fact. And the sectarianism flows both ways. A high percentage of the work issued by certain agencies will be to co-religionists. Fact.

    Anyone who would challenge this claim would do well to remember that, due to monitoring, the breakdown of companies’ ‘tribes’ is pretty much public domain material anyway, and the monitoring of those who issue it (also a matter of on-record monitoring) will, I am absolutely confident, demonstrate that it’s much too prevalent to be coincidental.

    In terms of the argument that NEDs keep recurring in various positions because ‘NI is quite small’, it should also be remembered that the number of businesses are ‘quite small’ (certainly in an overly dependent public sector economy like NI). And the jungle drums beat loudly.

    So it’s absolutely certain that there is ‘dirt’ out there. It’s entirely possible that the ripples from the NIW story eventually begin to swamp people who aren’t even considered to be on the margins of the kick-off point -NIW- yet.

    One possible reason why this hasn’t emerged before is that those who aren’t in the ‘inner circle’ still harbour ambitions to join the club, and whistleblowing is going to kill that. Anyway, the departments and agencies, some or all of whom enjoy their own fringe benefits as a result of the existence of an ‘inner circle’, have proved themselves not to be trustworthy where whistleblowers are concerned. The businessman who tells all can probably ensure that word will go out not to use his services again for the crime of doing the right thing.

    One day, soon, someone IS going to start blowing the lid off, with names, incidences, dates and the sort of unfair, underhand, immoral and illegal dirty deals that will make people’s eyes water. And they will perhaps be surprised that, in almost all instances of it, the instigators are those within public sector authorities. It is THEY who invite people to the golden party.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘who gets the contracts to carry out the commissioned work needs to be clear, open and available to everyone – irrespective of who they are or who they know.’

    Nice words, but the reality is that having created a golden circle, the legislators have pulled the drawbridge up behind them, with a whole raft of licences, certificates, rubber stamps by quangos, all at a cost to other, smaller businesses who can’t afford, particularly in the current economic climate, to ‘join the club’. They’re excluded by increasing amounts of dreamt up, pointless legislation.

  • medillen

    Yet no thread?

  • PAC members may need a little ‘prompting’ from the sidelines; some of them have had evidence of procurement problems for at least two years but, largely, remained silent.

    The decision to hold the PAC-NIAO session behind closed doors doesn’t IMO bode well for the future.

    “who could independently scrutinise”

    Perhaps Denis is a little too far removed from the action. The notion that a minister’s special adviser would act independently or would limit his or her role to one of scrutiny IMO doesn’t stand up. The Patterson-McGlade letter’s ‘seek any preferences you may have’ in NED selection shows a senior civil servant taking/seeking direction from a special adviser in the intimate details of the selection process.

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/36851739/Committee-for-Regional-Development-Procurement-Governance-in-Northern-Ireland-Water-Sept-1-2010

    “The Minister for Regional Development: There were serious issues about awarding contracts.Single-tender actions are not defensible. You, as much as I, will know that in this economic climate, people struggling to get work in whatever field will want to be assured that there is an open and fair system in awarding public contracts, and a level playing field for everyone”

  • He cannot be serious 🙂

  • The Minister: “Throughout the course of this, one of the features has been the accusations that have been bandied about in media circles and sometimes in cyberspace circles, which almost cannot be answered because nothing specific is put to anyone and no specific allegation is made about anyone. Those questions are left hanging. The phrase is that people have questions to answer, but those questions are never specified.”

    No? Really?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘IMO’

    So many three letter acronyms. It took me a little while to work out that this didn’t stand for ‘Independence Manipulation Organisation’.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘there is an open and fair system in awarding public contracts, and a level playing field for everyone”’

    Oh, for the love of Christ.

    Is anyone buying these empty platitudes any more?

  • The Minister 2: “Yes, and I do not doubt that the origin of that is an attempt to attack the integrity of the messenger, Laurence MacKenzie, who the Public Accounts Committee thanked for his public service in bringing information forward, and of the IRT. That originated even before I took action against the directors, and, from my conversations with the chairperson, I know that it originated from people who were directors of NIW. That has continued, and there has been a drip feed of what have been billed as sensational leaks to various media agencies and Internet blogging sites to try to attack that integrity.”

    More conversations with a purpose 😉

  • Some type IMHO – but I don’t do humble …

  • Mick

    Yep. Why do you ask?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “but I don’t do humble”

    We noticed 🙂

  • Jj

    ” I know that it originated from people who were directors of NIW”

    Who, precisely? Name names, otherwise it is just more of this: “nothing specific is put to anyone and no specific allegation is made about anyone. Those questions are left hanging”

    What about a more tangible allegation, i.e., that the scrutiny of NIW, the responsibility of the Shareholder Unit was not adequately carried out and a named individual was personally responsible for that failure…?

  • Pigeon Toes

    The other thing that we are not clear about is who did what.

    Who put together the IRT was it Priestly and MacKenzie, Priestly,Priestly, Mackenzie and Murphy, Priestly and Murphy or Murphy.

    The varying comments of each,at various committees, makes it sound like they aren’t too sure either…

    More “Bog Snorkelling”?

  • William Markfelt

    “nothing specific is put to anyone and no specific allegation is made about anyone. Those questions are left hanging”

    It’s part of the culture. It’s what they do. It’s what they’ve done since the current Assembly was established.

    They probably can’t be more specific because there’s nothing more specific they can say. It’s sleight of hand, insinuation, character assassination and quite possibly untrue. It’s a conjuring trick, and the trick is to say they’re on top of it. The problem being, there’s nothing underneath.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I would have thought there was a fairly specific allegation from the board regarding the friendship between MacKenzie and Dixon.

    Now did the Minister say that was “not specific” , “unsubstantiated” or both.

    He also alleges not have seen specific emails, but then later has assured himself and carried out his own investigations , seemingly by chatting with his officials. …

    The CRD should have reminded hi, that he was there to answer their questions, and not allowed him to cut interrupt as much…

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Priestly,Priestly, Mackenzie and Murphy,’

    This bears all the resonances of an early 70s ‘head’ combo who did their thing in the country and released an abum to critical acclaim, but no sales.

    After a period of contemplation, they went their separate ways.

    Forty years on, they’re still arguing about who was the visionary and who was the drug-addled passenger.

    ‘Murphy’ is probably the drummer, since his role is to hang around with people who initially much smarter than him. ‘I just like hitting things’, he is reported as saying in Melody Maker, circa 1972.

    All that said, he embarks on an experimental solo career and the others are consigned to the dustbin of history.

    Sitting in his new age teepee in the Mojave desert four decades on, he pulls slowly on the hookah and says ‘yeah man, I remember those guys. Assholes.’

  • William Markfelt

    In this case, yes, a very specific allegation, but it isn’t always the case.

    You make some very, to my mind, valid comments, but the Minister, despite protestations of ignorance, seems very clued into an agenda set by ‘tubes in cyberspace’, so we can pretty much dismiss this and every other NIW thread accordingly.

  • Pigeon Toes

    William, or indeed Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

    http://www.amquix.info/humor/drtooth/dr_tooth_money.html

  • William Markfelt

    By the way, can I suggest that Priestly, Priestly, McKenzie and Murphy’s debut album might have been called ‘The Cheerful Insanity of….’

    One track was maybe called ‘I talk a lot of wind’

    Another might have been ‘Hypocrite (recorded at the Beacon Royal Hotel’

  • William Markfelt

    They are, indeed, muppets of the highest order.

  • Mick

    Med?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Well if he admitted to seeing that UTV programme, he couldn’t very well claim ignorance.

    He thus couldn’t have assured himself of the IRT, and thus the whole heap of his actions 9as he has now admitted to playing a central role) come toppling on him…

    ut as you say he seems remarkably well informed of what is going on, not the actual content… Which is *odd*

  • medillen

    Well just curious it gave a different perspective on how Conor Murphy has handled this situation than some on here. I personally think Denis Bradley’s piece is very wide of the mark and ill-informed in terms of Sinn Fein performance on this and wider issues.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Well just curious it gave a different perspective on how Conor Murphy has handled this situation than some on here. I personally think Denis Bradley’s piece is very wide of the mark and ill-informed in terms of Sinn Fein performance on this and wider issues.”

    “There’s a surprise…

  • “The CRD should have reminded him,”

    PT, he was reminded – and spanked by teacher 🙂

    “The Deputy Chairperson:
    To be fair, MLAs have a mandate to be here and to challenge.

    The Minister for Regional Development:
    OK. “

  • William, Scotland has such a transport minister.

  • Mick

    You’re missing the point PT. Let’s draw up a best case. The Minister can’t get this monkey off his back until there is specific and incontrovertable evidence.

    Let’s see what emerges. But even if the minister cannot act on the proliferation of circumstantial evidence, I suspect it’s having an effect on ‘the game’.

  • William Markfelt

    I nominate our Culture Minister for a similar accolade.

  • Mick

    My reckoning from the evidence on Slugger is that it was McKenzies idea to sack the Board, but Priestly’s idea to have a ‘reason’ to do it. The irony is ithey did not need a *reason*.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Mick,
    I was and am still inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, that the civil service seeks to always protect the “permanent government”.

    But his answers don’t stack up, now whether that’s to save face or otherwise we are *all* at this stage unsure of.

    I have no doubt there were procurement issues within NIW, DRD and the public sector as a whole,.

    The Minister needs to articulate his precise role better than he has been doing of late, which is unlike him.

    At present he is coming across as being unwilling to discover what was going on within his department, and covering up hos own “errors of judgement”.
    It’s not unusual in Public Life, but it does not inspire public confidence.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘a different perspective on how Conor Murphy has handled this situation than some on here.’

    1st day ‘The Perm Sec has my full support;

    2nd day ‘I’ve suspended Priestly’

    Rock on, Conor!

    Your handling of the situation has impressed Medellin, at least.

  • Mick

    Tell us more?

  • William Markfelt

    ‘his answers don’t stack up’

    My perspective would be that the central Machiavellian character is McKenzie, whose ‘engineering’ has wrecked Priestly’s career to some degree, cast a cloud over McKeown’s (although she’s fighting back) and the ripples have dragged Murphy, who I thought had NO case to answer initially, into it.

    Murphy’s problem appears to be Murphy. Rather than STFU, he seems determined to dig a hole for himself, which would be a shame, because he hasn’t, in essence, done much wrong other than speak and speak too soon with his support for Priestly. I said at the time that I think Murphy got played, and with hindsight he certainly wouldn’t maybe have been so fulsome in his support, but as time has progressed this past week he seems to be determined to create a hole for himself, rather than one created by others.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘My reckoning from the evidence on Slugger is that it was McKenzies idea to sack the Board, but Priestly’s idea to have a ‘reason’ to do it.’

    A sharp enough assessment Mick, but then begs the question as to why McKenzie felt he need to sack them We know the asnwer to this one: they were against him.

    Next question along is why were they against him? Surely there comes a point in any sensible person’s life where they begin to ask why they, alone, appear out of step with everyone else.

    And that’s a question for PAC. Why does everyone appear to be wrong, according to McKenzie, but he’s right? We can go back to your ‘power play’ comment. McKenzie was fiefdom building. Evidence suggests he just may have overstepped it. I would imagine that the next meeting at the NICC might be a little less cordial than before, for example. Instead of having the board against him, he now has his noddies in place. The problem being, in doing so, he now has a whole range of other people against him.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘wider issues’

    What wider issues?

    Sorry, Mick, I get this ‘play the ball’ rule at last but, honestly Medellin, your just chucking fingers at the keyboard in the hope the words they form make some sort of sense.

    If you don’t see the arguments, even if you disagree with them, it’s because you don’t want to see the arguments.

    Blind man. Galloping horse. Etc. Etc.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Mick, would he not need to examine all the evidence before him, in order to make any kind of informed decision?

    Claiming ignorance of Jamie Delargy’s work does not justify his current stance…After all he participated within that process.

    Closing your eyes and ears, to the obvious,does not a justification make..

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Claiming ignorance of Jamie Delargy’s work does not justify his current stance’

    Of course it doesn’t. Which is why I say (above) that his problem seems to be himself.. He seemed to be doing OK until he started to comment on events. After that, he’s digging himself into a hole that he could realistically have just looked into. Or not, if we take his comment on not having seen the programme at face value.

  • Let’s hope that a few of these co called civil servants are booted out with no pensions, no pay-offs.Let them suffer a little.

  • interested

    one of the difficulties here is that in a centrally planned public sector economy funded out of transfers from Westminster these difficulties are inevitable.
    the economic model has to change but where is the leadership to lead the way.

  • malairt

    Why are STA’s (SIngle Tender Actions) not defensible?

    You could charge all public agencies in the UK wih that and they would all fail. What a strange statement to make. The Minister is not being well advised here.

    Utilities Regs and Public Procurement regs both are explicit that STA’s are entirely appropriate when circumstances mean that public benefit would otherwise be compromised.

  • malairt

    This is the first time that Steria has come up in the Ministers words.

    “he (Laurence MacKenzie) brought to the Department’s attention his concerns at the way in which NIW was trying to extract itself from the Steria contract”

    Super.

    So it wasn’t awarding a contract to Contractor A that was the problem, it was how to get out of the Steria contract in the right way.

    Now, is that a procurement problem?
    .

  • Mike,

    All employees have watched/read with the interest on the rolling out of a story that, internally, we have all known about since pretty much the 1st couple of weeks that Laurence MacKenzie started in NW or at least for the best part of year anyway.

    The only surprising thing is that there has been no significant disclosure internally from NIW… but there is an obvious reason for this… we all have careers/families/mortgages/bills and it is fatal if you raise your head above the parapet… and as the Japanese say “…the highest nail gets hit first…!!!”

    But this is changing… and alot of my colleagues are now openly discussing that Laurence MacKenzies’ position is unteneable within the organisation, and with a fair degree of animosity and open resentment too.

    I am embarassed to tell anyone that I work for NIW… yet I feel I have probably been engaged in some of the most strategic and valuable projects that I will ever be exposed to in my working life… and have delivered significantly with substantial results. This is something I am(was) genuinely proud of… and has now been reduced to “junk status”. (As a comparison, my career pre-NIW spanned nearly 20 years in private sector international business, so would imagine that I have “earned my spurs”).

    On a wider context, the staff surveys results are virtually not fit for human consumption… they are literally that bad, they have not been published…!!! And when you couple this with a looming pay freeze for 2 years which really equates to a 5% pay cut in real terms… overall morale is at an all time low.

    Please remember that this whole recent story re. internal NIW can be described as no more than that of petty board room politics/spate… and then the fallout and collateral damage of a botched job that was set in motion by Laurence MacKenzie and Paul Priestley ie. to get rid of the Board and to stop megalomanic Laurence MacKenzie from resigning… (Internally, they are known as Beavis and ButtHead… with no greatness attached to either…!!!)

    A word of caution though… Laurence MacKenzie is for himself, ask anyone in NIE and as P Priestley, A McKeown, P Dixon and C Murphy are all now finding out the hard way. It will be interesting to see how this eventually works itself out as they run for cover, with careers in relative disgrace… but don’t feel too sorry for Laurence MacKenzie… you tend not to go too hungry when your salary is £200k p/annum year and significant bonus structure, AND nearly £10 p/annum car allowance… omertà can buy you alot these days… but not integrity and credibility unfortunately… and leadership and stewardship is certainly beyond any of them.

    On a serious note, I would ask commentators from all sections to have a think about the ordinary rank and file members of NIW, as an organisation and an institution that WE should all be proud of. We are a public asset owned by us all… and I am not saying we are perfect and infact no organisation that I have worked in anyway. But we try on an ongoing daily/monthly basis to get the big ticket items right and make sure any mistakes are small ones… and all employees that I know, are very focussed on service delivery and would highlight the freeze/thaw at the start of the year – this is seen as just part of the job. But we have been used as a media football and a political play thing, in a situation that has gotten completely out of control and I for one am completely and totally demoralised.

    We have significant issues to address that are ahead of us in terms of public sector expenditure and all of the “scandal” above is taking our focus off from what is important.

    Leadership is about doing right things… Management is about doing things right… and the personalities associated/involved with all of this have shown neither… some-one once said “Go and Go now…!!!”

  • …sorry “Mick”…

  • Mick

    Good spot malairt.

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://aprnonline.com/?p=48030
    “In my view, previous administrations would have sat on this report and engaged in a damage limitation exercise. We are about bringing this out into the open because it is public money and people have the right to know what is happening…In the past, I have no doubt that this sort of practice would have been covered up with no public focus or no consequence for the wrongdoing, such is the culture that exists.”

    No , it’s happened under your stewardship too, and in fact in your own department.

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://applications.drdni.gov.uk/publications/document.asp?docid=18210

    NIW Internal Audit – Contracts Approval

    Has more detail on the actual contracts in question…

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Anything not included above is excluded from scope. The following is specifically excluded:
     EP capital works contracts (subject to a recent audit of EP Procurement in September 2009, limited sample testing on capital expenditure over £0.5m
    within that review raising no major findings); and
     The method used to evaluate tenders.
    This review has not made any legal judgements in relation to compliance with procurement legislation and has only highlighted relevant exceptions as
    potential breaches to the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2006.”

  • Pigeon Toes

    “2) Steps will be taken to inform
    all relevant stakeholders
    including the Board, the
    Shareholder and the
    Regulator….. Procurement breaches
    All issues noted above in 1 – 5 are potentially
    breaches of the procurement procedures or the
    Financial Delegations policy and are therefore
    potentially employee misconduct cases that may
    require disciplinary action.
    The Chief Executive in conjunction with the Board
    should consider if any action is required to be taken up
    with the individuals involved in the various procurement
    breaches contained in this report.
    Agreed. This will be pursued and any
    action will be documented.
    Responsibility:
    Chief Executive
    Action Date:
    31 March 2010”

    Instead they sacked the Board…

  • interested

    PT glad you extracted this line of responsibility
    ‘they’ being the minister advised by his senior civil servants and, as in the press release ,with the complicity of the new chairman!!!
    however the input from rank and file of NIW is stunning and most welcome-

  • Good spot, PT. I’ll put this January 2010 document on Scribd as I haven’t spotted it on a DRD or Google search.

  • interested, sometimes the rank and file need external support, especially if they risk put the family income on the line. I did a story on NALIL some time ago that gave parishioners the confidence to question decisions taken by the clergyman and church management; the clergyman has since been given a position in another part of the diocese.

  • Contracts Approval report on Scribd.

    “Background

    A recent independent review was commissioned by the Chief Executive into the appointment of Contracting Out LLP to assist with the Steria contract termination. That review highlighted that the appropriate internal and external Shareholder approvals, as required by the delegated authorities set out in the financial delegations policy, had not been obtained. This applied to both the award of the framework contract to Contracting Out LLP under a single
    tender action ‘STA’ and the framework schedule for subsequent work in relation to the Steria exit.”

  • “Date Issued
    (v1) 15 January 2010 (draft)
    (v2) 21 January 2010 (draft)
    (v3) 22 January 2010 (draft)
    (v4) 27 January 2010 (final)”

    So, the IRT was established on the basis of the second independent internal audit first draft report?

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://applications.drdni.gov.uk/publications/document.asp?docid=18211
    “Contracts Approval Review
    Addendum Summary – 10th February 2010
    Due to the sensitive nature of the Contracts Approval report it has faced detailed scrutiny by the business. As a result, further
    information has only been provided by management following issuance of the final report on the 27/01/10. This has resulted in the
    following addendum points:
    Explanation of addendum items
     Appendix 3, item 5, Huber – the nature of the services provided by Huber is actually the same across the M&E,
    Wastewater and E&P business areas. This should therefore actually be stated as an STA that should have sought
    Shareholder approval;
     Appendix 3, item 9, CLN Solutions Ltd – there is a typo error under ‘evidence of tendering / contracts in place’. Should
    read ‘no evidence of internal approval for SQI piece of work, however approved business case for internal controls
    assignment’. Previously read, ‘internal approval for SQI piece of work, however no approval for internal controls’;
     Appendix 4, item 2 table 2, PwC Data Quality Improvement Stage 1 and 2, lack of business case approval – evidence
    has subsequently been provided of approval of project at One Programme Board in March 2009. The One Programme
    governance is distinct from the ‘BAU’ financial delegations policy and project with spend over £250k requires approval at
    One Programme Board rather than by Chief Executive – no longer an exception;
     Appendix 4, item 1, Ollave no business case. Procurement have subsequently provided business case that was
    produced for novation of the Steria sub contracts and represented that the costs within this included allowance for work
    required by Ollave. However, there is still no evidence available of approval of the costs within this business case;
     Appendix 3, item 8, NI Computing Ltd – no evidence of STA approval. Evidence subsequently provided that part of
    Telemetry projects within the One Programme and expenditure approved through One Programme governance. Not
    officially tendered, although evidence of quotes being obtained furnished. However, due to the value this should have
    still gone through proper competitive tender exercise; and
     Appendix1 and 4, Alaris Consulting Ltd – STA and no evidence of CE approval on business case. Subsequent evidence
    provided by IT to demonstrate that CVs received from various organisations and interviews held to select party, therefore
    not actually a STA requiring CE approval – no longer an exception.”

  • PT, I’ve added the February 10 review to the Scribd document and linked to NALIL blog.

  • medillen, do you think Sammy Wilson, the Minister for Procurement and chairman of the Procurement Board, should be supporting his ministerial colleague re. these procurement issues?

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.drdni.gov.uk/newsDetails.htm?newsRef=1306

    “Since my last opportunity to update the Committee I have appointed an Interim Chair Padriac White and three new non-executive directors to the Board of NIW on an interim basis. A full public appointments process is expected to commence shortly”

    Who can’t count?
    Padriac White,
    Plus
    Mairtin O Muilleor, Peter Bunting, Lawson Mc Donald and Kevin Steele.

  • Conn Cerned

    Having been involved over many years with tenders for government work, I can tell you that NIW is not alone in its inability to run a proper .i.e. fair/transparent/consistent/ rigorous procurement process. ALL NI government departments/agencies should be examined for their procurement practices. But who should do this? Can we trust them to do it themselves? Not a hope!

  • 🙂

  • interested

    again, not wishing to take the focus of todays stunning and very well presented input from “rank and file of NIW” which needs more space for discussion -just for information the annual household water charges in Scotland are £324 and Wales £397. OFWAT does not have control over the max charge in N Ireland-however levied.

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.niwater.com/ourboard.asp
    “The Board of Northern Ireland Water comprises four Executive and six Non-Executive Directors and provides independent judgement on issues of strategy, performance, governance and executive appointments.^

    NIW seems to have got the abacus out. 🙂

  • McKavanaghs

    Well said.

  • Pigeon Toes

    but there is an obvious reason for this… we all have careers/families/mortgages/bills and it is fatal if you raise your head above the parapet… and as the Japanese say “…the highest nail gets hit first…!!!”

  • mopphead

    Could everybody try once in a while to keep up? Contractor A was hired to advise on the cancellation of the Steria contract. So it was a procurement problem. But hey don’t let the facts get in the way of your conspiracy theories. Is there an Opus Dei link here BTW?

  • Pigeon Toes

    From reading both this and the addendum, it looks very much like an internal control problem, and it looks as if the the internal review was specifically aimed at such.

    It happens in every organisation, and whilst 100% compliance is the ideal, it’s not realistic.

    Hardly the sinister spin that’s been attached to the above issues.
    The method used to evaluate tenders, was excluded from the scope of the review…

  • PT, I’ve just had a chat with a DRD press officer about the content of the September 1 press release: “Minister Meets With Regional Development Committee”; it appears to have been put together in haste.

    Minor points include the misspelling of Padraic (par 6) and a plural object followed by ‘is’ (par 2).

    There is a new Chair of the NI Water Board and there are four other new NEDs, not three as stated (par 6) – unless one has done a bunk 😉

    The TOR for the Paul Priestly inquiry refer to ‘allegations of irregularities around the awarding of procurement contracts in Northern Ireland Water”. This contrasts sharply with ”governance failures in/at NI Water’ in the DRD press release.

  • I’m expecting a reply in the very near future from the Shareholder Unit re this August 6 email:

    “Can you please list the six NEDs and the respective categories under which each has been appointed to the interim Board?

    Were the seven principles of public appointments used in the selection of the candidates, in particular the principle of diversity?

    Diversity

    Currently, the make-up of the boards of our public bodies fails to reflect the make-up of our population. The opportunity to appoint the best people is greatly increased when every potential applicant is attracted and encouraged to apply and when individual differences are truly valued. Everyone involved in the public appointments process has a duty to encourage a pool of applicants as diverse as the people of Northern Ireland. By their actions throughout the public appointments process, Departments will demonstrate their commitment to this principle.

    Of the six NEDs, how many would be classified as ‘unionist’ and how many ‘nationalist’?”

  • Conn Cerned

    The method used to evaluate tenders is suspect – it is at variance with practice elsewhere – and should have been included

  • Conn Cerned

    Let’s not just highlight NIW procurement practices. All of the government agencies are poorly overseen by the appointed boards in this regard. And we the ‘shareholders’ are paying the price. We have only to look at NIHE and the way it conducts itself – Heating contracts for NIHE houses awarded for a 5 year period have continually been extended this past 4 years without re-tendering!

    The prices being paid for the heating schemes in these NIHE houses are double that being paid for providing similar schemes in private dwelling under the DSD (but NIHE administered) Warm Homes schemes – for similar work! Each year that this cosy arrangement continues cost us the taxpayer somewhere in the region of an extra £15m more than it should had the work been re-tendered.

    Who is overseeing this? Not to mention the fact that the NIHE appointed consultants policing these high-cost heating schemes are then involved on the other side of the fence as co-contractors benefiting from the Warm Homes scheme! And don’t tell us they didn’t know the cost difference! Sometimes it pays to keep quite. A conflict of interest by any standard. You bet! Incestuous? Favouritism? That would be putting it mildly. Is anyone in DSD checking on all this?