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Clarifying details of department's 'missing' memo

I AM writing to clarify the article headlined 'Top civil servant apologises for losing vital memo' (News, early editions, January 21), which I consider to be misleading.

At the Regional Development Committee meeting on January 19, I said that the Department for Regional Development had no record of receiving a copy of the memo which Sara Venning sent to the Northern Ireland Water board, to which she referred in NIW's briefing to the committee on January 6, 2011.

This statement remains correct as the department did not receive a copy of this memo signed by Ms Venning to which she attached a briefing note and therefore, quite clearly, could not 'lose' it.

However, in the interests of transparency, I wrote to the committee to explain the apparent discrepancy in the evidence provided by Ms Venning and myself in relation to this memo.

I explained that, having had our records checked again, the department noted a copy of a briefing note from a NIW public affairs officer on December 23, 2010 that had been sent to a range of stakeholders.

The briefing note was not signed, nor did it record that it had been sent to the NIW board. The department was, therefore, not in a position to know that this was a copy of the briefing note Ms Venning had sent to the NIW board and to which she referred at the committee meeting on January 6.

The department has clarified the position with the clerk to the Regional Development Committee and, in this regard, I have apologised to the committee for any confusion that may have arisen.

MALCOLM McKIBBIN (DR)

Permanent Secretary, Department for Regional Development

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