Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Health Committee

The interim chief executive of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said he did not believe there was a need for anyone in the organisation to be disciplined following a review into its management, on 12 December 2012.

Investigations into the NIFRS were carried out following whistle-blowing claims which centred on fraud, unapproved bonuses and the failure to deal with staff grievances.

In October, Health Minister Edwin Poots said the reviews were commissioned and an interim chief executive was appointed because "it was clear that robust intervention was needed".

NIFRS interim chief executive Jim Wallace said the basis on which any discipline would be undertaken would be based on the evidence.

"My own view, from interpreting the report's recommendations as they stood, for me, there was not sufficient evidence on the face of the reports to warrant or pursue discipline," he said.

He said that an independent external reviewer would access this.

"What the overview will give us, is some assurance that either I've got it wrong, or indeed that my initial reaction to them is indeed correct," he added.

The SDLP's Conall McDevitt questioned what evidence would be required for disciplinary action.

"The overwhelming majority of the allegations made have been proven to be either partly or substantially true, therefore, how much more evidence do you need before you would take action to deal with the individuals responsible?" he asked.

Dr Joe McKee, chairman of the NIFRS Board, said they were addressing their actions on the professional recommendations that came from the internal auditor's report and the Department of Health.

"None specify that there are disciplinary actions to be taken against staff," he said.

Dr McKee said he was "acutely aware" of many of the serious issues raised in the recent whistle-blower report and had approached this "head-on by taking the unprecedented step" of splitting the roles of chief fire officer and chief executive.

He said the overall corporate management team had three non-uniform directors and he hoped a further two positions would be filled by the end of March 2013.

"That will be a significant improvement in the governance in the organisation," he said.

Health committee chairwoman Sue Ramsey it was vital that people were held responsible.

"It's important that we send out a clear message that what was done was done, people are going to be held accountable and people, if necessary, are going to be disciplined and we ensure that it can't happen again," she said.


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