NI Water: Mr Priestly to return to work, but the issue rumbles on?

So Mr Priestly, the former Permanent Secretary is to return to work, albeit as a deputy Permanent Secretary. His salary drops from £106,000 down to £92,000. It is not certain where he will be deployed.

He was suspended for providing the text of a letter which was subsequently used by to attack the workings of the Public Accounts Committee by Peter Dixon (also a non exec of the DRD appointed Harbour Commissioners at the time) whose work as a member of an Independent Review Team was being legitimately scrutinised by said committee.

There is substantial evidence that Mr Priestly’s Independent Review Team was nothing of the sort, but rather a contrived means of resolving a conflict in the chain of command between DRD and Northern Ireland Water by getting rid of four out of five non executive members of the Board of Northern Ireland Water, by hanging the blame for certain breaches in procurement policy.

Intriguingly, this request for information was entered on 3rd May this year and was due to be answered under the Freedom of Information Act by 31st of that month

All correspondence in relation to procurement breaches identified in relation to legal or other fees ,or any other procurement breaches, the value and number of these breaches and actions taken as a result of their identification which have occurred  or been identified between August 1st 2010 to date.

An answer has been postponed on ‘public interest’ until the date the interim Board is due to step down. Hmmm… So we don’t get to see the comparative performance of the interim board with those Mr Priestly sacked until after that Board step down…

It is not that strange that Mr Priestly is to be reappointed. After all, as the comic handbook for Civil Service behaviour, Yes Minister has it, it is the unwritten rule that no one gets fired:

Sir Arnold: If once they accepted the principle that senior Civil Servants could be removed for incompetence, that would be the thin end of the wedgeWe could lose dozens of our chapsHundreds, perhaps.

Sir Humphrey: Thousands.

But bringing him back into the ongoing saga that is DRD/NI Water would be foolish in the extreme…

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

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