Water rates or hosepipe ban: why NI Water funding model needs to change…

I was on Nolan to discuss a hosepipe ban that’s imminent. In England Severn Trent has asked people to conserve water, but there’s no ban. Water services in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic have been investing massively in their systems. That’s not only brought leaks down within the system but allows them to keep up with ever rising demand as populations grow across these islands and demands shift up and down with the seasons. Meanwhile NI Water (as it …

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We can’t keep putting off investing in NI Water…

As you might have noticed it has been pretty hot the past few weeks. All this heat is not great for our water supplies and NI Water have warned that of supply shortages and a potential hosepipe ban. This happens most years, but it is a good reminder that we take water for granted. NI Water has been warning for years that we need to invest in our water infrastructure. There is the obvious part of the service – the …

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Sinn Féin MLAs to claim ‘qualified privilege’ for press statements in NI Water libel case?

The BBC reports from Belfast High Court as, former non-executive director in NI Water, Declan Gormley’s libel proceedings against Sinn Féin, the party’s Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, and former assembly member Willie Clarke, heads to its court date – 26 November.  Apparently, no political party members nor NI Water employees, members and staff on the Stormont Public Accounts Committee are to be allowed to sit on the jury.  And, also from the BBC report At a review hearing on …

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Ministerial U-turn on NI Water Chief Executive’s terms

After his very well publicised threat to resign, the acting Chief Executive at Northern Ireland Water, Trevor Haslett, appears to have got what he wanted – a £20,000 pay rise [and a two year contract? – Ed].  From the BBC report A spokeswoman for the Department for Regional Development confirmed the deal. “Northern Ireland Water needs leadership and stability,” she said. “Trevor Haslett has demonstrated that he is the best person to lead NI Water through the winter that is almost …

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NI Water: Another Chief Executive resignation?

The BBC’s Jim Fitzpatrick reports that NI Water Chief Executive, Trevor Haslett, has “signalled that he wants to leave and return to private consultancy”.  Haslett has been in the post for almost 10 months, after stepping into the vacancy caused by the defenestration of former Chief Executive Lawrence MacKenzie.  From the BBC report NI Water was created as a state-owned company in 2004 with Ms Bryan at the helm and its structure suggested that it would ultimately be privatised. But the devolved government …

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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 …

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Was NI Water rolling back poor departmental compliance rates?

The PAC’s report into Northern Ireland Water has to be one of the most comprehensive pieces of research, not only into a publicly owned utility, but into an insider government culture that brooks no dissent and treats whistleblowers with contempt. There is more than enough to keep Slugger going for the next fortnight, and yet beyond this excellent summation of the story by Sam McBride at the News Letter, the press have, by and large, let it slide. However, as …

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NI Water: Murphy’s department “undermined confidence in the integrity of the public sector”

Just clicking through the journalism  associated with Super Thursday’s report release day. That was the day the PAC’s report came out, and the regulator’s report.  Two remain outstanding: the Executive’s conflicted interest report; and Sir Jon Shortidge’s report into the conduct of Mr Murphy’s suspended Permanent Secretary. Of these the PAC’s is the more substantial, but guessing from this BBC report, few professional journalists seem to have actually read it. Interestingly the meaty stuff, which examines the serious misconduct of Permanent …

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NI Water crisis: “once this information is in the public domain, it may undermine your perceived independence…”

Following an FOI request, BBC NI’s Stephen Walker reports that the NI Commissioner for Public Appointments, Felicity Houston, has raised concerns about the OFMDFM appointments to the latest ‘independent’ review of NI Water with the head of the NI Civil Service.  That’s in addition to the Commissioner’s previously expressed concern about the NI Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy’s appointments to the interim NI Water Board. From the BBC report In a bizarre twist, staff assisting Phil Holder and Heather Moorhead’s …

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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 …

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NI Water refuse to disclose attendance record of interim Chair

Fascinating little sidebar matter on the Northern Ireland Water issue. Jim Allister has been refused information relating to the attendance of the Chairman Pauric White at Board meetings. The reasons given are astounding: “Premature disclosure of information pertaining to the investigation, whilst the investigation is ongoing, could potentially result in closing off options through adverse public reaction.” Acting CEO Trevor Haslett is the individual who authorised this refusal. When contacted by Slugger, an NI Water spokeswoman stated: “It is, however, …

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NI Water: PAC chair complains about leaked report to UTV…

As Pete noted earlier, the chair of Stormont’s Public Accounts Committee, Paul Maskey is not best pleased that a copy of that committee’s draft report has found its way into the hands of Jamie Delargy of UTV.  Not surprisingly, since as Maskey points out, it is not yet been official adopted by the committee. Mr Maskey is on record as saying that in his role as PAC chair he has to leave his political baggage at the door. Yet as …

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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 …

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Another conflict of interest in yet another NI Water review team…

You can never quite guess which way this Northern Ireland Water story is going next. So now there’s another question hanging over the appointment of a review team set up to look at the foul up over Christmas announced within hours of the conclusion of Mr MacKenzie’s negotiation over his departure deal on Friday. Two days into his appointment as CEO, MacKenzie learned that he was to have two bosses. The duly Board of the GoCo of course, but he …

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NI Water: How Murphy’s sackings left MacKenzie accountable directly to DRD

Fed up with drinking copious amounts of Northern Ireland Water stories on Slugger? Not as fed up as I am writing them. We kicked off back in July after that PAC when no one but the Belfast Telegraph (who have taken a ‘MacKenzie loyalist’ line throughout), whilst an industrious Jamie Delargy was working on it  sub rosa at UTV was giving it anything more than a cursory glance. Six months later, a Chief Executive has gone and Regional Development, has …

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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 …

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NI Water: So another one bites the dust… (updated)

Just picked up confirmation of Jamie Delargy’s report on UTVlive over an hour and a half ago that Laurence MacKenzie has resigned, stand by for the text of NI Water’s statement… Update: UTV is suggesting the pay off is in the region of 1/2 Million… Update 2: Here’s the first one, btw for anyone who’s not been following this story… Update 3 – at midnight NI Water Chief Executive and NI Water Board issued statements. Laurence MacKenzie: This is entirely …

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Regulator to head up the NI Water review…

So the Utlities Regulator is to lead the review of NI Water. According to UTV: Following consideration of this matter I am proposing that the NI Authority for Utility Regulation – the Regulator – will conduct this review. “The Regulator is an established independent body which already has a statutory duty to regulate water and sewerage services. “It is therefore suitably qualified and has access to the range of required industry skills and expertise to conduct the review. “The Executive …

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NI Water: Any convenient ‘troubled’ port in a storm?

Interesting quote from Liam Mulholland who in the absence of any substantial public appearance from his boss, the CEO of NI Water Laurence MacKenzie, puts the blame on the Troubles (for any foreign journalists reading, you might like to note these ‘officially’ ended back in 1994) for his company’s poor reaction to the extreme freeze thaw weather conditions of the last two weeks. The clear imputation is that politicians were to blame, even though it was Mr MacKenzie himself was so …

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