Posts Tagged 'Utilities'

More appalling incompetence at Northern Ireland Water

The fallout from the unfit-for-purpose utility that is Northern Ireland Water shows no sign of ending any time soon.  It has just come to light that almost £25 million allocated to upgrade Northern Ireland’s ageing water system was given back to the devolved government in December.

Despite years of under investment in the water infrastucture, when money was made available for capital projects it was untouched then returned to the central government pot for reallocation to something else.  Democratic Unionist MLA Alastair Ross seems to sum up the general feeling:

“One has to ask why NIW were unable to spend the £25 million when the need for improving the water infrastructure in Northern Ireland is well-known. This indicates poor financial management within NIW, and a lack of clear leadership within that organisation far beyond the former chief executive (Laurence MacKenzie).

“It seems that every day we learn of more and more mismanagement issues within NIW and indeed within their parent department under the ministerial responsibility of Conor Murphy.”

Perhaps Conor Murphy is finding it harder than he expected to make the adjustment from being a member of the IRA and possessing explosives to being a member of a government and possessing control of a government department.  Perhaps he is in denial of the reality at NI Water, but then, denial seems to be something that comes naturally to him.

NationalGrid – Not one of Met Office’s ‘intelligent’ customers?

According to a piece by the BBC’s Martin Rosenbaum in December last year, the UK Met Office puts probabilistic seasonal data on the scientific pages of its website where, in the words of a Met Office board paper, such figures can be ‘more targeted towards users who appreciate their value and limitations’, (i.e. not members of the public).

Rosenbaum goes on to add that:

As another document put it, ‘Intelligent’ customers (such as the Cabinet Office) find probabilistic forecasts helpful in planning their resource deployment.

Based on this and the information published in a document on NationalGrid’s website – as shared by Joe Public guest posting on Subrosa – we can only conclude that the NationalGrid is not one of the Met Office’s so called ‘intelligent’ customers…

It seems NationalGrid find probabilistic forecasts helpful in planning their supply of gas to the nation.  So it seems more than curious that the operator of this country’s gas network was not let in on the secret forecast that was withheld from the public.  Again it is pertinent to ask just why the Met Office issues these forecasts (that they claim are not actually forecasts) at all.

If NationalGrid – with its national strategic interest in seasonal forecasts – is not one, just who are these ‘users who appreciate their value and limitations’?  Perhaps that is yet another question the Met Office can answer.  In the meantime we await their formal response to the FOI we have submitted to them and the Cabinet Office.

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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