Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Sacked NI Water board member hits back

Declan Gormley utterly refutes any wrongdoing

A board member of Northern Ireland Water sacked over concerns about how the government body was being run has hit out at the decision to dismiss him.

Declan Gormley was one of three board members who were dismissed along with the company chairman Chris Mellor by the regional development minister.

Conor Murphy said on Friday that the company could be open to legal action over the way contracts were awarded.

The report cited a "serious breakdown" in the company's governance.

But Mr Gormley, 52, has denied he did anything wrong.

"I do not agree with the decision and believe it was unmerited and without due cause," he said.

"I utterly refute any wrong doing on my behalf in discharging my duties as a non-executive director at Northern Ireland Water during my 20 months on the board.

"At all times I have acted in accordance with my responsibilities as a company director, and reiterate that I have done nothing during my period on the board which would merit any sanction never mind dismissal."

Mr Gormley, who is the chief executive of a local manufacturing company, was dismissed along with John Ballard and Ruth Thompson.

The independent report found that there had been a "serious breakdown in the governance and control framework" of the company.

Speaking about that decision, Mr Murphy said: "I am concerned of course that people may feel hard done by and try and bring some kind of legal proceedings.

"We'll have to deal with that if that arises."

The report was jointly commissioned by NI Water's chief executive, Laurence MacKenzie, and the permanent secretary of the Department of Regional Development.

Laurence MacKenzie said he would ensure appropriate controls were put in place
Mr MacKenzie said appropriate financial controls will be put in place

It found there had been a serious breakdown in the relationship between Mr MacKenzie and the board of NI Water over the way the company awarded its contracts.

It states: "The Internal Review Team (IRT) has been advised by the chair of NI Water that, in his opinion, the chief executive officer (CEO) does not have the trust and confidence of the board and that this position is now irreconcilable.

"The CEO advised the IRT of a breakdown in trust between himself and the NI Water board."

The review team added that it was concerned the breakdown in this relationship would cause "severe difficulty" when it came to implementing the report's recommendations.

But Mr Gormley questioned how the independent review team had come to its conclusion.

"No specific act or omission of mine has been brought to my attention which leads me to question my conduct," he said.

He also asked why he had lost his job while others who were involved in the same "collective decision making process" had not.

"In performing my duties as a Non Executive Director of NIW I challenged certain aspects of the process undertaken by the Independent Review Team.

"I find it regrettable that of the 28 people interviewed by the Independent Review Team that I am the only individual who has not had an agreed record of his meeting with the IRT included by them in the records of their enquiries, or incorporated into their findings.

"It should be equally noted that over 70% of the issues identified in the internal audit and subsequently included in the IRT review occurred before I joined the organisation."

He said that since he joined the board, he was not aware of any contract that was not compliant with the company's procurement protocols.

The Department of Regional Development said that the report initially identified 24 contracts where appropriate governance procedures "had not been followed".

"Due to further evidence being provided by management following the realisation of the serious nature of the initial findings, the number of contracts is now sitting at 21, representing a total value of £8.4m. Further "deep dive" audit work is ongoing," a spokesperson said.

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