Belfast Telegraph

Water Crisis: We must unravel what went wrong

Anyone looking for assurance that the governance of Northern Ireland is in safe and robust hands would have found little compelling evidence yesterday as the fall-out from the burst water pipes shambles continued to tumble into the public arena.

Laurence MacKenzie may have resigned as chief executive of Northern Ireland Water, expressing his sorrow for his organisation's performance, but the public cannot feel confident that they will learn how deep the malaise within the organisation goes.

Senior members of NI Water appeared before a committee of MLAs, but little new emerged from the resulting questioning, which appeared more an excuse for the politicians to vent their anger at what happened than to do anything constructive. It is also evident that Department for Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, feels no great sorrow at the departure of Mr MacKenzie, despite saying quite recently that he had every confidence in him.

To further compound matters, Mr Murphy appointed the Utility Regulator to investigate the failings of NI Water. Criticism of that move prompted the Executive to last night announce that Mr Murphy and his department's role would also be probed.

The regulator's everyday role is to oversee the work of NI Water and other utilities to ensure that customers' interests are protected, that any charges imposed are fair and that high standards of service are delivered. Some might ponder if those roles were carried out diligently enough in the past. If they were, why was the response of NI Water to the problems with supply over the Christmas period so pitifully weak?

There is no doubt the issue is complex and the relationships between the Department, NI Water and Utility Regulator so labyrinthine that it will take a sure hand to unravel what went so disastrously wrong. The question every member of the public should ask themselves is simple - do you believe you will get the answers you deserve or will this be another example of dysfunctional government muddying the waters?

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