Belfast Telegraph

MLA calls for end to 'quango kings' on public bodies

By Adrian Rutherford and Chris Kilpatrick

Northern Ireland's "quango king" culture must be urgently reformed, an MLA has warned.

John Dallat called for an end to the practice which means some individuals can hold multiple posts on public bodies.

The issue has been brought to a head by the controversy over Sean Hogan, the outgoing chair of NI Water.

Mr Hogan, who holds positions on four other bodies, has not been seen nor heard publicly since the water crisis started last month.

He earns a £40,000 basic salary for four days' work a month with NI Water.

Yesterday attempts by the Belfast Telegraph to track him down proved unsuccessful.

Mr Dallat, a member of the Assembly's regional development committee, said he was "extremely disappointed" by Mr Hogan's continued silence. According to his online profile, Mr Hogan currently provides consultation to five different bodies, including NI Water.

The others are Sentinis, a not-for-profit educational charity, and an advisory role with Specialist Cost Auditors.

He also chairs the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy and the Department of Agriculture's Bovine TB strategic partnership group.

Mr Dallat said it was symptomatic of a "quango king" culture in Northern Ireland.

He said the public appointments process was in urgent need of review.

"This whole episode highlights the absolute need for a complete revision of appointments to arms-length bodies and quangos," he said. "There are a great number of people in Northern Ireland who have the skills and expertise to better Government departments.

"However, they are not in these circle of serial appointees who appear to be perpetually appointed to bodies, some of which offer very attractive remuneration."

Mr Hogan was also chair of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) between 2006 and 2014.

Shortly before he stepped down, the quango was the subject of two damning reports.

In September 2013 the Audit Office criticised how the AFBI had spent £250m of public money.

Last March the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee said management and oversight at the institute was "unacceptably poor".

Earlier this week Mr Hogan was criticised at Stormont over his lack of public appearances amid the crisis which left thousands of people without water.

At an emergency meeting of the DRD committee on Wednesday, Mr Dallat asked if he was "hiding under the table".

NI Water chief executive Sara Venning said she had been in daily contact with Mr Hogan and other board members throughout.

Yesterday NI Water said: "NI Water can confirm that Sean Hogan, alongside his fellow non-executive directors, has been available throughout the incident, providing strategic guidance, direction and support to the NI Water management team."

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