Republic’s Social Protection budget leeching €100 million pa…

Interesting editorial in today’s Irish Times on the inefficiencies in government spending… The biggest culprits? Social Protection and Education. Hardly surprising. But still at a time when the exchequer has long since gone dry, the Times calls for a toughening on the rules: The Department of Social Protection made welfare benefit overpayments of almost €100 million – nearly double the 2007 figure. In all 63,310 claimants were overpaid. Fraud accounted for one-third of these excess payments, and human error – …

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Sinn Fein suffers another memory loss at the PAC?

There’s much to be said about where the PAC’s investigation of NI Water leaves us all. As noted previously there is plenty of material to draw out from the final report. But there’s one wee detail worth noting in passing. Mitchel McLaughlin had this to say on Monday: It was revealed during Ministerial questions in the Assembly today that Mr. McGlone, an SDLP member of the Public Accounts Committee had submitted questions to the Committee investigation into NI Water procurement …

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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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PAC considers asking for members’ phone records to source leak…

Not sure how seriously to take this one, since the legal complications it might invoke would probably rule it out from any serious consideration. But on the eve of the publication of a major report from Stormont’s Public Accounts Committee, Slugger understands that some members of the PAC have been suggesting that the phone records of its members should be investigated in order to source the leak of an earlier draft version of that report to UTV on the goings …

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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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NI Water: Why open government is more than a slogan for the chattering classes

There’s a very sharply observed piece by Denis Bradley in today’s Irish News, which aside from lauding the work of John Dallat and others on the PAC, an intelligent whistle-blower and some fine words about Slugger, he also let’s slip a few fundamental truths about where the blame lies. And it is not with the politicians: “…it has caught the two governing parties on the hop. They didn’t see it coming. But anyone who has spent a few nights in the …

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Priestly drafted Dixon letter of complaint to PAC

The BBC are reporting, ahead of this evening’s UTV Live [added link], that they have seen an email sent by suspended NI Regional Development Permanent Secretary Paul Priestly to Independent Review Team member Peter Dixon following the 1st July PAC meeting. From the BBC report The email sent by Mr Priestly on 2 July followed a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. At the meeting questions were asked about the independence of a review into NIW, which led to the sackings. It confirms …

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NI Water: When is a *final* report not a final report?

First, a detail from the Hansard record of the PAC. It comes from Mr Priestly’s opening remarks, so there is no question of his misspeaking under pressure. The review team delivered its final report to me on 18 February. Once I became aware of the problem, swift action was taken. But here’s the problem. Looking at the timeline again, the 18th was the date of the second draft, not the first nor the final, which only officially arrived with the …

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Two named (and two unnamed) staff members of NI Water under investigation.

As reported on Slugger yesterday, two of the MLAs who came under direct attack from Peter Dixon for their role in the Public Accounts Committee’s masterclass interrogation of the Permanent Secretary of DRD and the Chief Executive (and Sub Accounting Officer) of NI Water have written both to the board of Phoenix Gas and their owners, the private equity firm Terra Firma, as to whether or not they support Mr Dixon’s attack on Stormont’s PAC written on Phoenix headed notepaper …

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“it is important to restore the public’s confidence in NIW…”

The NI Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee declined the offer to question directly the former chairman of Northern Ireland Water – who, along with the non-executive directors, disputes the circumstances of their dismissal in March.  Meanwhile, as the BBC notes, the NI Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, has appointed 4 new non-executive directors to the Board of NI Water by “an emergency process”. The new directors are: Mairtin O’Muilleoir, a Belfast businessman and former Sinn Fein councillor; Peter Bunting, …

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