NI Water: Yet another expensive review slouches into view…

So after just one year and seven months in post, the latest person to leave the shambles that is NI Water is Laurence MacKenzie. Negotiations on the exact terms of his departure only concluded at 12 Midnight last night. The final figure is thought to be about £96,000 (note, that’s not been confirmed).

The Board is recommending that Trevor Hazlett, a civil engineer with 30 years experience at NI Water (and direct responsibility for industrial procurement), as MacKenzie’s replacement. Hazlett is a highly respected member of staff, but has no board level experience. It remains to be seen whether he has the capacity to step up two rungs in one go.

No doubt the soon to be former Chief Exec is now rueing the day he even applied for the job.

First outcome is that Mr MacKenzie won’t be facing the Regional Development Committee at Stormont today. Hazlett will instead.

As noted yesterday, Mr MacKenzie’s swift exit from the scene is convenient for both himself and the Minister. Stormont’s politicians will be left effectively punching thin air.

And the appointment of the newly appointed Utilities regulator has caused some disquiet amongst staff at NI Water, not least since it was Mr Lynch’s predecessor Ian Osbourne who last year tried to apply downward pressure on the companies overall spending programme.

That’s presumably one of the conflicts of interest that Antoinette McKeown had in mind when she suggested the Executive had failed at the first hurdle on Good Morning Ulster this morning.

NI Water has needed fixing every since it lost Katheryne Bryan as its first Chief Executive. It’s had expensive reviews from Professor Paddy Hillyard’s Independent Water Review Panel to Mr Priestly’s dodgy Independent Review Team, all costing a fortune and most of their finer deliberations ignored in favour of narrow political score settling and hillbilly lynchings.

Despite what is likely to be a cooling off period coming up in the wake of Mr MacKenzie’s resignation, I suspect we haven’t heard the last from NI Water…

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  • Show on the road.

  • granni trixie

    Whilst ofcourse those responsible for such a poor show ‘ought to consider their position’, I do wonder to what extent the resignation is media driven? I do not consider this to be shooting the messenger but posing the reasonable question: do resignations actually help forward the situation?

    NIW case also shows up (not least) some of the problems with an arms length body – responsibilities can fall between the cracks. More generally,was it not inevitable that since devolution, faults in many systems masked by the troubles and Direct Rule are now revealed as problems for local MLAs to resolve?.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just had a private text pointing out that the regulator’s office web boasts taking £90 Million out of NIW…

  • Mick, for the benefit of googlers, it’s Haslett, not Hazlett.

  • The Consumer Council wrote to the Minister for Regional Development and First Minister and Deputy First Minister four times over the New Year period to seek assurances that this review would be truly independent. .. To date, we have yet to receive a response.

  • edgeoftheunion

    Ok first cut.

    This is how the people who are going to investigate NI water in Jan 2011 thought they were doing in Dec 2010.

  • edgeoftheunion

    I suspect this is where the £91m came from Mick. (Pg 4)

    The first period saw successful delivery of an operational efficiency target of £53.8 million
    (2006-07 prices from a 2003-04 base) and an improved overall service performance of
    23 points. The second regulatory period, PC10 (2010-13), challenges the company to
    deliver a saving of £91 million and an improvement in its overall performance score of
    80 points.

  • mike scott 2011

    The Annual Report of the Regulator also claims its spending review of NIW (PC10) would lead to “investing £564million in capital investment programme – an investment which is 47% higher per property (on average) than England and Wales.”

    Thought we were under investing in water??

    This is a total mess.

  • Pigeon Toes

    This might sound awfully stupid, but why is the Regulator conducting the “external” (note NOT “Independent”) review?

    Surely they are ahem “independent”, and as such should be conducting their own investigation unencumbered by the TOR set by the DRD minister?

  • Mick Fealty


    It is a mess Mike, but not in the way you seem to think.

    Here’s how that works. England and Wales are no longer investing in their infrastructure. The plastic pipes are all in.

    Known in the trade as a corporate shimmy to catch the innocent.

    Here’s what PC10 actually meant from the September proposal that set things alight in the Boardroom at NI Water:

    “NI Water ’s Business Plan asked for £1,190m to run its business over the next three years. Our draft determination shows that through efficiency and other savings its revenue requirement could be reduced by 11% which would provide a saving of £136m.”

  • mike scott 2011

    OK so that means the Regulator was aiming to reduce NIW’s spending power by £132m, right? Should that not be a factor then in any investigation into how this sorry mess came about. i.e shouldn’t the Regulator be under the microscope along with Murphy, DRD and NIW?? Instead they are in control of the investigation. Seems wierd to me.

    Why are the politcians not shouting about this? McDevitt has gone awfully quiet.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, I agree. And you can stick the NICC and the NIAO in with them too.

    I’ve been saying since the summer some of the questionable things that have been done at NIW have occurred because of multiple reporting failures.

    You do have to ask, who has been “watching the detectives?” And who can we rely on to do it now?

    Murphy won’t go, because no one can compel him to go. All this mess really needs is a genuine change at the top and recharge of political will to deal with this mess, not another pointless investigation.

    It’s a damning indictment of our solid state, airless democracy. And a damned shame.

  • mike scott 2011

    Unfortunately that is the ultimate indictment. This region cannot get itself sufficiently organised to keep the water flowing and on the back of that we have point scoring, eletioneering, buck passing and a culture of blame avoidance (it took Conor Murphy precisely 2 seconds to utter the words “that’s not my responsibility” on GMU this morning).

    Your are right it is a damn shame, it really, really is.

  • mike scott 2011

    The story moves on – now the regulator’s investigation will be supplemented by two other people appointed by FM and DFM. Three enquiries for the price of one!

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah now, don’t be talking about prices. Didn’t you know there was a draft Budget on?

  • “Ah now, don’t be talking about prices. Didn’t you know there was a draft Budget on?” …. Mick Fealty, 7 January 2011 at 1:36 am

    Having trouble sleeping, MIck, or are you fortunate enough not to need so much of it?

    There’s not much talk on Slugger about the failure of the government to provide the public with the detailed spending/budget proposals for review/consultation, as was promised by them and Sammy Wilson some time ago.

    And is there no one working for the Stormont Assembly who knows how to generate money for the necessary public projects which the ministers and MLAs are responsible for? Does the OFDFM not have a masterly plan or is that plan to gurn to Whitehall for more money [a bigger block grant] and to support the further screwing of the natives with the imposition of more and/or higher taxes and new service charges?

    Are they waiting on the private sector to provide a white knight on a champion charger to deliver what they need?

  • Oops…. please ignore that MIck typo. I didn’t mean to provide any notion that this site is a dodgy new virtual intelligence gathering program for newbies in Loughside, Hollywood.

  • Thought for the Day ……. “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” – Edward R. Murrow

  • andnowwhat

    Really sorry about this but I thought someone who, unlike me, can start blogs might want to do one on the following issue.

    Caroline Harper has stted that 50% of patients in ICUs with flu related conditions are NOT in a high risk group ie. no underlying condition and not of advanced years.

    Furthermore, she is unwilling to provide thestatistics relating to how many people have died this year relating to the above.

    Caroline harper represents the PHA BTW.

    Again, my apologies for being off topic but I think there is a real stopy here, both as a regional and national one that someone may wish to follow up.

    Thank you

  • malairt

    @ amanfromMars
    If you’re not going to whine to London for more money, and you’re not going to charge the populace more tax or charges, where do you suggest that Stormont gets more money from.
    Nationalise the banks as you suggested in another thread? – we’ve already done that.

  • “Nationalise the banks as you suggested in another thread? – we’ve already done that.” ….. malairt, 7 January 2011 at 11:00 am

    Oh, which banks would they be then, for none of them are listening to government instructions about bonus payments to themselves after having to be rescued with a £100,000,000000 injection, which apparently then has been billed to the likes of simple Joe Public to pick up the tab. ……

  • Oh, and can you reference the post which suggested nationalising the banks, please. Thanks.

    Far better methinks for the government to create a completely new bank for all of the money which has been gifted from the Public Purse, and let all those other ones, which lose billions, fend for themselves/find themselves another scam to run?

  • malairt

    Tsk tsk, 2 apologies in one day. You’re quite right amfM. You didn’t say nationalise them, I inferred from your posting that that was what you were aiming at. I apologise.

    I think the serious amount of action by government agencies across the world in the last couple of years suggests that many fear that letting too many bust banks disappear would not be a good thing.

    I agree with the “bad bank” idea, it’s worked well elsewhere, which isn’t quite what you’re suggesting. But I don’t think creating a government owned “good” bank is an answer.

    Bonuses – these folk have no idea of the antipathy they generate amongst non-bankers, and don’t seem to care.

  • Pigeon Toes


    8. Secure
    sustainable water
    and sewerage
    services for the
    8b. By end January 2010,
    working with statutory partners,
    provide the strategic direction to
    enable NIW to finalise a
    Strategic Business Plan for
    Likely to be
    achieved but
    with some
    Targets for 2010/11 in
    place; work is ongoing
    between the Regulator
    and NIW to agree
    efficiency targets for
    2011/12 and 2012/13.
    Revised target date
    31 December 2010.
    The criticality of the
    delay is moderate .
    Agreement between NIW,
    NIAUR & DRD achieved
    October 2010 through
    agreement of MOU –
    formal sign-off to be

    They might want to have another wee look at that….