Another conflict of interest in yet another NI Water review team – redux

As I said of the leaked draft PAC report into NI Water

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.”

The BBC reports on questions over the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers’ appointment of Philip Holder to the second layer of the investigation into the role and responsibilities of the NI Regional Development Minister and the Department in the NI Water saga.

From the BBC report

The Department for Regional Development would not confirm that Mr Holder was considered for a role on the board of NI Water.

The Office of First and Deputy First Minister, which appointed Phil Holder, has not responded to a series of questions sent by the BBC.

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  • Come on, they appointed someone who actually knows the industry, and lives in Surrey. No doubt he was turned down for the job because he was too good at the technology – not sufficiently dumb to be the Minister’s poodle. Then claiming a forwarded message amounts to a link to Laurence McKenzie is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. This looks like a deliberate attempt to create a fog over the investigation.

    No, the only legitimate objection to this inquiry is that it is not being run by scientists and engineers: like a CSI NI, “the case of the missing water”. That’s why they should have got the Health and Safety Executive to do the enquiry.

  • You just couldn’t make it up – complete arseholes advising them up on the Hill !!

    FOI’s already sent to OFMDFM

  • mike scott 2011

    I am not a lawyer but if I was Phil Holder I would be on to one first thing this morning. That report was a pile of crap and to be frank was beneath Stephen Walker, who is normally a better journalist than that.
    The inference is that as a “failed candidate” to be Chairman of NIW Holder is not fit to carry out the report. Drivel. If anything he has something to prove and certainly carries no torch for the Minister who didn’t select him. In fact his non selection as Chairman by Conor Murphy should raise his standing in the utility world given Murphy’s track record in picking poor performers as CEO and Chairman.

    Holder sent a email to Peter Dixon about water saving devices? Wow, that’s dramatic. And Dixon did what? He sent it on to the water authorities?? Hold the front page! (What should Dixon have done with it, sent it to Translink?)

    Next thing you know Conall McDevitt will be on the radio calling for a review of the investigation of the review. What’s that? He was already on……………..

  • “I think the whole integrity of the inquiry is put under suspicion.” .. Declan O’Loan

    This would be the same Declan O’Loan who failed to spot flaws in the integrity of the Rathlin ferry tendering process and the subsequent investigations. I don’t recall the BBC lifting a finger when that saga was unfolding.

  • “The former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham, said the appointment was “totally inappropriate”.”

    Did the BBC not think to ask Alistair Graham for his view on the appointment of the interim NEDs to NIW or the quality of the Commissioner for Public Appointments role in the appointment process during and after the event?

  • “create a fog over the investigation”

    Dave, all ‘successful’ investigations are necessarily enveloped in fog, the best fog that Ministers and Permanent Secretaries can buy with taxpayers’ money.

  • wild turkey


    this is getting tedious. not your posts sir, but the behaviour of the upper echelons and their zipper lickers is tedious.

    they are, after all, civic and not public servants, this easily translates and transmutes into their fundamental raison d’etre. it is this. ” serve me, my connections and my family,and the public be damned”

    has “Sir” Bruce Robinson acted upon the recommendations arising from the investigation into Priesly?

    Do we know what those recommendations are?

    Who is “Sir” Bruce accountable to?

    For all their titles and positions and connections, these people are scum, scum like their current counterparts in Egypt.

    And they need to wrestled to the mat

    Their careers, their families, their spawn and lowerdown zipper lickers need wrestled to the mat. with extreme prejudice.

    Grease them.

    Afterall, do these slapdicks have an effective notion of honesty and accountabilty?

    if yes, evidence?

    if no, grease them .

  • mike scott 2011

    I see the BBC has removed last night’s article from their web site and today’s update no longer uses phrases such as “failed candidate”. Peter Dixon has apparently disappeared from the story too.

    I can only imagine the dressing down Stephen Walker is getting, maybe he will stick to real stories in the future.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Hmm wonder if Holder was on that long short list compiled by Patterson and Priestly, and did he actually *apply* for the post?

    Who vetoed the appointment of a man,( whom they now consider worthy of investigating the dept and NIW) in favour of Padraic White?

    That could be very interesting…..

  • Mike, both items are on the website as is the Stephen Walker video.

  • John Waite, BBC Radio 4, Face the Facts, Thursday 12:30: Northern Ireland Water

    “John Waite investigates what wrong at Northern Ireland Water. Why were tens of thousands of people left without running water over the holidays, some for over a week? And, why is the company is expected to hand back millions of pounds to the government while blaming underinvestment for part of its problems.”

  • “Northern Ireland Water has said faults with newly installed pipes caused the loss of supply to hundreds of customers in Kilkeel at the weekend.” BBC Feb 7

    Much has been made of the dilapidated state of our old mains. I wonder how many major bursts/leaks occurred in the new plastic mains that have been installed by private contractors within the past few years. Are there questions to be asked about the quality of NIW supervision of this work?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Interim Chairperson of NI Water

    Mr C McDevitt asked e Minister for Regional Development (i) if he informed the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister of Mr Philip Holder’s previous involvement with the Department for Regional Development; and (ii) to confirm who in his Department approached Mr Holder to test his willingness to be considered for the position of Interim Chairperson of Northern Ireland Water.

    (AQW 3978/11)

    Minister for Regional Development: ( i) Yes, I informed the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister that Mr Philip Holder was one of the potential candidates considered last year for the role of Interim Chair of NI Water. (ii) The Senior Finance Director, Deputy Secretary of DRD, phoned Mr Holder to confirm his interest in the position of interim Chairman of NIW prior to writing to invite him to meet with the panel considering the appointment.

  • PT,

    It was strange how an additional NED was slipped in, possibly at the last minute prior to the PAC July session ie Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. Have our MLAs got the dates and times for the phone-call and the follow-up written invitation? How many people got such a phone-call, how many follow-up written invitations were sent out and when? Was Felicity Huston’s office consulted about the appointment of the additional NED?

  • BBC NI only Spotlight 10:35pm tonight – Caught Cold – Yes, another NI Water story.

    Why thousands were hit by the water crisis. Julian O’Neill investigates the troubled saga that is NI Water. Who’s to blame and are we all facing higher bills? The first in a new series of Spotlight.

  • Who said asking the regulator to carry out a review was like putting Dracula in charge of the blood-bank and then wondering why there was no blood for a transfusion – or words to that effect?

  • bittersweet

    Now we have Mr McKenzie turning his venom on the Minister! Funny how he never had a word to say about the Minister’s actions until now!When the Minister was happy to go along with his plans to get rid of the Non Execs he didn’t seem to have much to say-now it’s all different.

    So much for honour among thieves!!
    Spotlight I think was useful but far too short ,this is a story that needs an hour to really explore and debate the issues.

    It seems that the Minister is about the only person who can’t (or is that won’t) acknowledge that something has gone seriously wrong and needs to be put right.

    Sorry really does seem to be the hardest word for our Minister at the DRD!!

  • Pigeon Toes

    Larry should possibly have listened to that “boiling frog” story. ;-D

    “I recall a non-executive colleague telling me to watch them. He told me a story about the frog that boiled: they will make the water nice and warm for you and keep making it warmer and warmer; you will get friendly with them until one day they boil you”

  • Mellor and MacKenzie were both aware very early on of the SF political agenda and Huston saw it in action in the selection of the interim NEDS. “We wanted more power, not less” highlights the power-play between the Treasury and the SF Minister and it would seem that Paul Priestly and Lian Patterson were compliant to ministerial demands.

    Spotlight, despite its detailed research, missed out on Ó Muilleoir being slipped in as an additional NED. Perhaps the Spotlight folks should have paid more attention to the conversations and stray insights on Slugger O’Toole 🙂

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Ms Huston told BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme her office had found an “enormous number of gaps” in the process of appointing replacements.

    “We couldn’t find out how people had ended up being interviewed,” she said.

    “There were missing records about submissions to ministers where advice is given to a minister on how we might proceed”

    “I have to say that I have investigated other public appointment competitions in DRD and been very dissatisfied with them.

    “The permanent secretary (Paul Priestly) and I had some full and frank exchange of views about how he was running his appointments.”