Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Northern Ireland Water and the Consumer Council

Thursday 19 August 2010 

The Consumer Council has commented on this week’s developments regarding investigations into Northern Ireland Water (NI Water). Antoinette McKeown, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council said: “These latest developments are a further blow to consumer confidence, which had already plummeted following the revelations about NI Water’s misuse of public money. Very serious questions must be answered. Earlier this week the Consumer Council asked for and has now secured a meeting with Minister Murphy and we will be pressing him with those questions on consumers’ behalf.

[click images to enlarge]

Antoinette had earlier expressed Council concern about the delay in the Ministerial appointment of the interim Board:

There is potential to further jeopardise governance of and confidence in Northern Ireland Water

As a former member of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland she is well placed to scrutinise the community balance of the new Board and the independence of the Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), not just from Government but from each other. Any taint of cronyism would do further damage.

Were all of the new NEDs selected on the same basis or were some chosen through 'conversations with a purpose'? Did the DRD Permanent Secretary declare an interest viz. that he participated in a private venture in New York which was organised by Máirtin Ó Muilleoir less than a month before the latter was named by the Minister as an interim NED?

Why has an additional NED been added to the Board? How might this change affect decisions taken by the Board? What business and other connections exist amongst the NEDs - and between the NEDs and DRD and NIW Executive Directors - which might limit their independence?

Let's hope the Consumer Council continues to ask all those governance questions of the Minister, the DRD and Northern Ireland Water - in the public and the consumer interest.

Available for download on Scribd

Added 27 August 2010

CCNI Press Office: "We're planning to issue a detailed statement on all the issues once we've had our meeting with Conor Murphy in the middle of next week and put all of our questions and concerns to him."

Sam McBride in today's News Letter has drawn attention to Antoinette McKeown's personal support for NIW's beleaguered Chief Executive, Laurence MacKenzie, during the course of the Independent Review Team's investigation and the parallel 'deep dive' NIW study.

This lack of separation can also be noted in the Chief Executives Forum where Ms McKeown and Kieran Donnelly,  CEO of the Northern Ireland Audio Committee, who can be considered to represent the public interest, can be found in close proximity to the likes of Laurence MacKenzie and a bevy of Stormont's Permanent Secretaries.

How will the Minister react to questions being posed by the Consumer Council when its Chief Executive has now got caught up in the NIW fiasco?

Added September 1, 2010

[click link]
"The Consumer Council Chief Executive and Chair met today (1 September) with Minister Conor Murphy to put their questions, concerns and demands to him following recent revelations about the handling of an independent review of Northern Ireland Water’s (NI Water) contracts issuing practices."