NI Water: Draft PAC report says IRT conclusion “too general” and “deficient”

UTV has seen a leaked copy of the draft PAC report into the NI Water saga.  From UTV [added emphasis throughout]

The draft document, which was prepared by Audit Office staff over the past six months, has criticised the composition of the team formed last January to examine procurement problems at the water company.

It says the Department should not have appointed individuals to the Independent Review Team who “could be perceived as having a conflict of interest.”

The draft report says there are clear indications “the Department inappropriately influenced a small number of key findings in what was (supposed to be) an independent review.”

It says the investigation by the Independent Review team was completed “with undue haste.”

It claims their overall conclusion on the culpability of the board members – in particular the non-executive directors- was too “general” and “deficient.”

The First and deputy First Ministers clearly haven’t learned the importance of not appointing individuals to ‘independent’ reviews who “could be perceived as having a conflict of interest.”

But do Audit Office staff have an “axe to grind” too, Minister?  And are you still unrepentant for having acted swiftly and decisively on the back of that ‘independent’ report?

Don’t worry, though.  The Chairman of the Assembly’s PAC, the NI Water Minister’s party colleague, Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey is on the case…

“It appears that an early draft report into NI Water has been leaked”, West Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Paul Maskey said.

“If this is the case I am concerned and disappointed. I will be trying to get to the bottom of this”.

“As it stands, this document is not a PAC report. The Committee has not completed its inquiry and this is certainly not the Committee’s agreed position.”

Adds BBC report here.

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  • MichaelMac

    “But do Audit Office staff have an “axe to grind” too, Minister?”

    Someone has, or else they wouldn’t have leaked it.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Adds BBC report here.’

    It was the best of worlds, it was the worst of all possible worlds.

    With Maskey charged with criticism of Murphy it’s going to be a ‘savaged by a dead sheep’ paper exercise.

  • Jo

    OK, so the actual PAC won’t say very much different, in their official report. But does this not show that the original “independent” report which was astoundingly easy on the Shareholder function, was completely self-serving, if the DRD unduly influenced the report findings.

    Now, any true reflection of responsibility should surely point the finger squarely on a failure of oversight, which was the responsibility of Gary Fair and Lian Patterson, as well as Paul Priestly (who after all allegedly did something else associated with this sorry saga).

    Will they follow him? And whatever indeed became of him? Will we ever know?

  • I think the DUP and SF are aware of the importance of having their cronies in key positions of influence and decision-making. The occasional squall will come along when their machinations will be uncovered but it soon blows itself out.

  • Pigeon Toes

    But surely this would have already gone to DRD for “clearance”?

    Priestly being painted as a loose cannon?
    If indeed that is the case then surely there is an onus to re-examine all the other “independent” reports under his watch.

    One also has to wonder just how watered down the final report would have been, had it not been er leaked.

    Glad Maskey has his priorities right. Another witch-hunt, another enquiry, rather than focus on the serious issues within DRD and NIW.

    As for Gormley, good luck and I hope this helps restore your faith in the process of “natural justice” (a term I believe Mr Priestly was rather keen on).

    It’s unlikely that those lower down the food chain will achieve similar.

  • Pete Baker

    Guys

    Sceptical, not cynical.

    Michael

    If you follow the link you’ll see that having an “axe to grind” was Minister Murphy’s description of those questioning the independence of the review team…

    But you knew that.

  • Cynic2

    “Sceptical, not cynical.”

    I want to be both. But why assume it was the NIAO that leaked it? My money is on a committee member

  • Cynic2

    ” But you knew that.”

    Mmmmmmmmmmm what do you know that we dont? Not another bloody SpAd in here. Still they must do something for the money and there are so many it must be hard to keep them busy

  • Pigeon Toes

    Cynic,
    Not necessarily… The “clearance process”…

  • Pete Baker

    Cynic, not sceptic

    The draft document, which was prepared by Audit Office staff over the past six months, has criticised the composition of the team formed last January to examine procurement problems at the water company. [added emphasis]

    I’m not assuming anything about who leaked what, just commenting on who prepared the document.

    And referencing the Minister’s previous response to those questioning the independence of the review team…

  • Pete Baker

    Btw, the quesion of who leaked what is a “side show”.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “those questioning the independence of the review team…”

    And I’ve got a hatchet to grind ( We learns by experience)

  • Pigeon Toes

    Surely the Minister will have to take on board these criticisms, whether in draft form or otherwise?

    Which is why I wonder whether he is now being painted as a loose cannon, and if so, what other reports should be questioned.

    Surely this is the only way the Minister can save face, though you would have to wonder about his competence and judgement by allowing himself to be surrounded by so many high ranking and inept professionals.

  • Cynic2

    ” Surely the Minister will have to take on board these criticisms, whether in draft form or otherwise? ”

    Why? He’s not accountable

  • Cynic2

    Pete

    My understanding is that in these cases NIAO act as drafter and various drafts go to the Committee for discussion?

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, but as Delargy pointed out on UTV, now the thrust of this initial draft is in the public domain, the scope for tamping it down in private is now very narrow.

    Which, it seems to me, to have been the major point of the leak. (Sound of grinding axes at Stormont gets even louder).

  • Pigeon Toes

    Which, it seems to me, to be the major point of the leak.

    Agreed wholeheartedly, and indeed why the need for reform, given the questions regarding the relationship between the former Perm Sec , NIAO and “clearance”

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/08/05/ni-water-the-permanent-secretary-accidently-hit-the-caps-button/

  • Cynic2

    “deficient”

    But if it was deficient isnt that the Minister’s responsibility?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Ding Dong on Nolan now between Conall Mc Devitt and the Minister now, Murphy not sounding his usual “confident” self.

  • Pigeon Toes
  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/ExNIW-director-confronts-Adams.6695534.jp

    “Mr Gormley, who has campaigned to have his name cleared since being dismissed by Sinn Fein regional development minister Conor Murphy last year, was the only discordant voice at the overwhelmingly pro-Sinn Fein meeting, which was attended by education minister Caitriona Ruane.

    Speaking to the Sinn Fein leader in the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel, Mr Gormley said

    “Is it reasonable to expect that a Sinn Fein minister will recognise his duty of care to individual citizens and where that fails, as it sometimes can, he will be big enough to acknowledge that fact and move to remedy the situation rather than allow it to continue?”

    Mr Adams responded: “I’m not quite sure what it is to which you are referring, but I have never claimed that republicans have always got it right…but the short answer to your question is yes.”

    Speaking after the meeting, Mr Gormley said that he was “heartened” that Mr Adams had agreed with him and again called on Mr Murphy to clear his name.

    There could be a queue….

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/Audit-report-piles-pressure-on.6695176.jp

    “And, it revealed, “the third potential conflict of interest concerned the relationship between Mr Dixon and Don Price” (the one NI Water non-executive director not to be sacked).”

  • William Markfelt

    ‘in these cases NIAO act as drafter and various drafts go to the Committee for discussion?’

    In all cases the ‘independent’ NIAO tosses reports around like confetti to the various departments or agencies involved, and allows them all to shuffle the words around until all departments or agencies are smugly satisfied with their own performance. The ‘independent’ NIAO does not afford the same luxury towards those individuals, companies or groups beyond the government golden circle.

    The NIAO is an agency of government tasked with making the government look ‘good’ (in reality ‘borderline competent’) and its involvement in any sphere of life is to taint anything it touches.

    One would hope their crucial role in the NIW affair is examined in depth and ‘one of the lessons learned’ is the dismantling of this failed organisation.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Mr Adams responded: “I’m not quite sure what it is to which you are referring, but I have never claimed that republicans have always got it right…but the short answer to your question is yes.”’

    In a nutshell, this shows the mindset of ALL of those in the NIA. Wherever there is criticism or, in Mr. Gormley’s case, downright failure by government agencies, there’s am instant reaction to protect ‘the mandate’, which too often has failed many, many individuals in NI, such as Mr Gormley and others.

    Think of ‘the mandate’ and the gravy train, rather than of doing what is right and correct even if it shows the actions a party member in the highest office to be inept, ineffectual and, in some instances, practically crooked in their attempt to pervert ‘justice’. (not to be taken as an anti-SF rant, the DUP are just as bad).

  • William Markfelt

    ‘But do Audit Office staff have an “axe to grind” too, Minister?’

    Actually Pete, they do.

    It’s called ‘justifying their own well paid positions and carrying out the orders of their masters in the allegedly independent NIAO’

    It’s unlikely the NIAO are ever going to say ‘actually, there’s no cause for concern’? That’s the axe the NIAO grind daily.