The Northern Ireland Department of Regional Development Permanent Secretary, Paul Priestly, was suspended on full pay in August last year.
The former Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Assembly, Sir Jon Shortridge, was appointed by the head of the NI Civil Service, Sir Bruce Robinson, to lead the investigation into Priestly’s role in the NI Water saga – but with somewhat restricted terms of reference.
The fall-out from that saga is now being felt in a wider political arena.
Sir Jon Shortridge reportedly concluded his investigation in November.
And yesterday we learned that, following a disciplinary hearing, Paul Priestly has been reinstated at the lower senior civil service position of Deputy Secretary.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, that ‘demotion’ comes with a £14,000 drop in salary – to just £92,000. Although the Irish News suggested that Paul Priestly’s salary could, in fact, have been retained at its previous level. And then there’s his pension…
The Shortridge report has not been published.
A statement from the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers (OFMDFM), responsible for overseeing the disciplinary hearing, said: “The head of he Civil Service Sir Bruce Robinson is now considering the staffing issues which arise from the demotion”.
At which point I can only echo Mick’s earlier quote from the glorious Yes, Minister.
“We dare not allow politicians to establish the principle that senior civil servants can be removed for incompetence. We could lose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds maybe. Even thousands.”