Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Speed up answers, Mike Nesbitt urges civil servants

Baptism of fire: new Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt

Senior civil servants are too slow at responding to questions from Assembly committees and are not transparent enough, the UUP leader has said.

The alarm bells were sounded by Mike Nesbitt, who chairs the committee that monitors Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’s office (OFMDFM).

“I am concerned at the lack of willingness of many departments, including OFMDFM, to demonstrate appropriate speed and transparency when questioned by a committee,” Mr Nesbitt said.

“Senior departmental officials will be attending the OFMDFM committee over the next two weeks to brief committee members on how they intend to deliver and monitor their delivery on the Programme for Government.”

His rebuke came as senior sources confirmed that official reports on whether ministers are achieving their targets are set to be given quarterly in future.

Mr Robinson previously promised voters to judge the Assembly and Executive at the next election on how well Stormont has delivered.

And officials in his and Mr McGuinness’s office have been working on a mechanism|designed to formally measure the extent of the current administration’s success.

There was criticism when the last report on the Executive’s Programme for Government was delivered to the Assembly in a written statement.

The deputy chair of the OFMDFM watchdog committee, Chris Lyttle, said: “I did not feel that that was an appropriate or a sufficiently open and transparent way to do that. It also failed to give the Assembly an opportunity to properly examine performance against key targets.”

The report itself, however, revealed a third of the Executive’s own targets had not been met.

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