You can’t fault their honesty…

But you can fault everything else!  When it comes to stupidity it seems the good folk at Northern Ireland Water are in a league of their own.  From hiring a Chief Executive with a criminal record for theft to paying him nearly £100,000 when he decided to resign, it seems NI Water’s incompetence is constantly plumbing new depths.

As water regulators scrutinise the publicly run utility following its operational implosion as tens of thousands of water pipes burst during the December freeze, a Northern Irish politician has submitted a reasonable question in a Freedom of Information request.

Jim Allister of Traditional Unionist Voice asked how long NI Water’s Dublin-based chairman, Padraic White, spends at work.  The response of this public – and therefore supposedly accountable organisation – was anything but reasonable.  As Allister explains:

“I am astounded by their refusal to answer and the utterly fatuous excuse concocted to try and keep this pertinent information from the public.

“In the most contrived and indefensible response to a FOI request that I have ever seen, NIW says releasing such information ‘could potentially prejudice the progress and outcome of the Utility Regulator’s ongoing investigation’.

“In an unbelievable fantasy trip they go on to proclaim, ‘any significant media comment and speculation generated from such disclosure could impact on NI Water having to divert resources towards management of such matters.’

“It gets better, because then they say, ‘Premature disclosure of information pertaining to the investigation, whilst the investigation is ongoing, could potentially result in closing off options through adverse public reaction’.

“And, in a telling finale they say, ‘NI Water is minded of the fact that the sensitivity of the information requested may decrease over time and that this information may be suitably released in the future.’

“I’m only asking how often Mr White turned up to work!”

It’s yet another example of how today’s public servants tend their master.  Things are run for their convenience and benefit, not those who pay their wages and suffer from substandard performance.

Allister suspects, as many others do, that White is another one of those networking Chairmen who get paid a handsome sum for a few hours work a week for no discernable benefit to the organisation – and that NI Water fears a backlash for paying out big money to a man whose Board failed to ensure the utility was fit for purpose.

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