Belfast Telegraph

First Minister bids to resolve long-running row with Stormont watchdog

BY NOEL MCADAM

First Minister Peter Robinson has offered direct talks with the Stormont watchdog which has complained about contact with his department.

As revealed by the Belfast Telegraph, the committee which monitors Mr Robinson and Martin McGuinness' office has taken the unprecedented step of asking the head of the civil service to intervene. Dr Malcolm McKibben is expected to attend the next meeting of the committee on Wednesday.

But at Question Time in the Assembly yesterday, Mr Robinson said he would be happy to meet with the committee chair, Mike Nesbitt, to attempt to resolve the long-running row.

He said: "There is always a further difficulty in a department that has two ministers who are required to give approval. Any request for information goes through two sieves as opposed to one."

Mr Nesbitt said he had trying every avenue to try to resolve the problem after 38 cancelled briefings or late arrival of papers since last September, with responses to the committee taking on average almost 60 days.

Mr Robinson also added: "There needs to be some understanding that there is a requirement on departmental officials to ensure that, when they give answers, those answers are full and accurate. On many occasions, it takes them time to establish that."

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