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Questions for SDLP over NI Water stance

19 August, 2010


Speaking today in advance of tomorrows meeting of the DRD committee, Sinn Féin Assembly member Billy Leonard said it was time for the political parties and the SDLP in particular to state clearly whether they stand with the Minister in exposing and tackling the failures at NI Water or are they content to defend the disgraceful behaviour that went on and continue to defend those who have been called to account for their failings

Mr. Leonard said:

“There is a widely held perception that at the heart of public services here a culture of mismanagement and cronyism exists. This is particularly true when it comes to the awarding of government contracts. Many small businesses feel that they are excluded from winning public contracts and they are divvied up amongst the chosen few.

“That is exactly the practices that were exposed at NI Water. Over 70 contracts worth over £28m were handed out without public tender. In lay mans terms £28m of money was handed out to hand picked companies. Others didn’t even get the chance to bid for the work. This is a scandal.

“When it was uncovered the Minister rightly sacked those well paid Directors who where tasked with overseeing the work of NI Water. Indeed some of those sacked refused to even co-operate with the Inquiry into the affair. In the past I have no doubt that this practice would have been covered-up with no public focus or no consequence for the wrongdoing. Such is the culture that exists. That is a culture Sinn Féin are determined to tackle.

“Other parties need to explain why they are not equally outraged. The SDLP in particular appear now to be arguing that the Minister should not have acted with regard to NI Water. Are they content that contracts be awarded without tendering? Are they suggesting that the Minister should have turned a blind eye? It appears that is their position and it is one that is causing significant unease particularly with those businesses consistently denied a crack at government contracts.

“So it is time for the political parties to state clearly where they stand on this issue. Do they stand with the Minister in exposing and tackling the failures at NI Water or are they content to defend the disgraceful behaviour that went on and continue to defend those who have been called to account for their failings.” ENDS

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