Statement from the Regional Development Committee following its special meeting today

Session: 2009/2010

Date: 20 August 2010

Reference: RD 07/09/10

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Regional Development met to discuss recent developments in Northern Ireland Water and the suspension of the Department for Regional Development’s Permanent Secretary. The special meeting was called as a result of the ongoing work of the Public Accounts Committee; media revelations regarding the Independent Review Team’s report into procurement governance at Northern Ireland Water; and the suspension of the DRD Permanent Secretary to facilitate an investigation.

Committee Chairperson, Fred Cobain MLA, said today: “The Committee has identified a number of serious concerns. The Minister briefed the Committee on 15 March 2010 on the outcome of the Independent Review Team’s report into procurement governance in Northern Ireland Water. At that time, the Committee accepted the report on the basis of the evidence presented and the Minister’s briefing, and we supported the Minister’s actions to protect the public purse.

“Since we received that briefing, the independence of the review team’s report has been called into question, and the Committee will be seeking to assure itself that the production of the Independent Review Team’s report was robust and transparent. To that end, we will be taking the following steps.

“We will be meeting the Minister on 1 September 2010. At that meeting we will be asking the Minister to explain to the Committee, with the utmost clarity, developments since he briefed us on the Independent Review Team’s report on 15 March 2010. We will also be asking him to set out the further action he proposes to take.

“We will also speak to any others the Committee thinks necessary."

“These matters came to light following PAC’s evidence session on procurement governance in Northern Ireland Water in June this year, and we are all aware of the media coverage there has been this week. For this reason, next Monday the Deputy Chairperson and I are meeting with the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, to be briefed on their work, to request access to the information in their possession and to establish how both Committees can best address their concerns.

“There is no doubt that the current situation is serious, and we will continue to prioritise this matter. We welcome the promptness with which Malcolm McKibbin has been put in place as temporary permanent secretary of DRD, and wish him well in what we know are challenging times.

Ends

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