Board members sacked over tendering

 

THE NORTH’S Sinn Féin Minister of Regional Development Conor Murphy has sacked the chairman and three non-executive directors of Northern Ireland Water over the manner in which contracts worth £8 million (€8.8 million) were awarded.

An independent inquiry has found a number of breaches over how the company gave the go-ahead for some 20 lucrative contracts. The breaches included evidence of several of these contracts being awarded without proper tendering procedures.

The report made no allegations of fraud against those who were dismissed but a further “deep dive audit” is being held to test whether any managers should face disciplinary action. “There is no question of fraud; this is about the company’s procurement processes,” said a spokesman for Northern Ireland Water (NIW).

The inquiry was ordered by Mr Murphy and the company’s chief executive, Laurence McKenzie, shortly after he took over NIW in July last year.

Company chairman Chris Mellor and three non-executive directors, Ruth Thompson, Declan Gormley and John Ballard, were given an opportunity to resign but when they declined Mr Murphy formally dismissed them. The fifth non-executive director Don Price is remaining on the board. It was viewed he took steps to address proper procurement practices.

The three executive board directors remaining are Mr McKenzie, NIW director of asset management George Butler and director of finance Ronan Larkin.

The independent report discovered six contracts worth over £250,000 were awarded by just single tender. One contract worth over £750,000 was awarded without proper approval. It is estimated the 21 contracts were worth £8 million. NIW has an annual budget of £360 million.