NI Water: Uncancelled leave and serious management problems…

Sam McBride has an interesting snippet on staff holidays at Northern Ireland Water:

When asked if NI Water holidays had been cancelled over the New Year, a spokeswoman said: “No. Staff have been asked to come in and cover so each line manager is sorting that out with their staff to see what cover we’ve got and who is available, but staff have given up their holidays already.”

Mr Cobain said: “You can’t have people going on leave in this situation. These people went away on leave over Christmas as if nothing was going to happen.” Mr Cobain said it was part of a huge failure of planning. “We have three or four weeks of the most severe weather in 50 years, which was forecasted.”

Coupled with the lateness of the management to act on data received, you might also want to peruse at that staff survey from the summer to see that, whatever about the predicted severe conditions over the holidays, there appears to be a serious management problem ongoing inside the company…

As an aside, I spent the holiday period in various parts of South West England. In some places the conditions were as severe as at home. There were some burst pipes, but nothing like the toxic shock the Northern Ireland’s water system appears to be suffering.

Our politicians should not rest until they have adequate answers as to exactly why the scale of the problem on NI Water’s patch has been so disasterous.

The auguries are not encouraging. Fred Cobain, chair of the Regional Development Committee, “I don’t think anyone has any handle on the numbers. One of the big weaknesses has always been the reliability of the data they produce.” That’s an insight ruefully echoed by the Chair of the Northern Ireland Consumer Council.

The department’s obsessive focus on NI Water’s ‘accountancy fit’ with its own public sector procedures rather than making sure that NI Water is ‘fit for purpose’ has not helped either.

Rather embarrassingly for the Minister, that judgement has been made for him by his own party colleague, the deputy First Minister in the full teeth of a crisis he also clearly did not see coming.

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