Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Water: Damaging saga that’s not over yet

By David Gordon

MLAS will deliver their verdict on NI Water and its contracts in the autumn. Judging by the tone of yesterday's questions at Stormont, the report by the Public Accounts Committee will not make for gentle reading.

In the meantime, this damaging saga is far from over for NI Water. The follow-up questions and issues raised at yesterday's hearing are certain to be pored over in the months ahead.

It's the latest in a series of setbacks for a company that has never been loved.

That's not entirely its fault — the NI Water reform blueprint, complete with water charges, was part of a cunning direct rule plan to cajole local politicians into the 2007 power-sharing devolution deal. NIW was handed something of a bogeyman role in the script.

But there has been self-inflicted damage too — not least the setting aside of basic rules on ensuring value for money on contracts. MLAs are never slow to criticise NIW and they have been given plenty of opportunity in the three years of its existence.

It does bring to mind the story of a US politician who was asked why he kept publicly slamming an unpopular company. His answer was blunt: “Every time I kick it up the ass, votes fall out.”

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