Sunday, 10 May 2015

Department for Regional Development and Rathlin Ferry

UPDATED 16.05.15

As I've previously noted minutes now are often little more than virtually information-free action points. Take these minutes from the DRDNI Weekly Business Review, 2 March 2015:

Emerging Issues

Rathlin Ferry: Peter asked John McGrath to update him regarding the meeting with officials from NIAO.

On a related issue Peter asked Clare to ensure that any press coverage regarding the award of the contract could be co-ordinated around the Minister’s trip to the US.

I can find no details about NIAO's current interest in the Rathlin Ferry and I've not yet received a response to an email query I sent to NIAO over one month ago, not even an acknowledgement. I also can find no press release linked to the ministerial visit.

The Environmental Services Committee of the new Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council met on 5 May - just ten of the fifteen councillors were present:

13.Rathlin Ferry Project – Potential Harbour Improvements

The agenda is online but the officer's report should be but isn't. Hopefully the Council will adopt a more transparent approach in the near future.

The proposed new Rathlin ro-ro ferry has a 1.6 metre draft and this will mean the construction of new berthing facilities. If I heard correctly planning permission has yet to be sought and any associated environmental impact assessments will have to be carried out. Also all costs will be covered by DRDNI but the Council will have ownership of the new facilities.

Proposed new berthing layout

The decision to award the contract to Arklow Marine Services was taken on the 30th April and publicised on the 8th May. Presumably further details will appear in a DRD press release later this week.

Added 16 May 2015

I sent a reminder email a few days ago and received this prompt response:

 I apologise for the delay in responding to you while I sought to establish some facts on this matter. However, I have to tell you that the Office currently has no continuing interest in this subject.  The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report was published in November 2008. I am unaware of any further substantive action since 2009. Should you have any new information that you wish to present, I would be happy to consider it.

The query I posed about the 'continuing interest' - referred to in the DRDNI WBR minutes - has not been answered!

Well NIAO, let's have some objective information.

NIAO reply [28 May 2015]: I can’t add anything more to this. Neither I nor my colleagues are aware of any recent meeting between DRD and NIAO on the subject of the Rathlin ferry. It follows that none of us have seen any notes of any such meeting. I can only suggest, once again, that if you have any questions over the information provided on DRD’s website you should contact DRD. I simply do not have any information about this.

Is it not strange that DRD flags up an issue involving NIAO which NIAO has no knowledge of?