Belfast Telegraph

Audit office to investigate Northern Ireland Water

The audit office is to investigate Northern Ireland Water.

The probe was requested by Stormont's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is looking into the sackings of four non-executive directors.

The directors were dismissed after an independent report revealed contracts were handed out without being tendered.

Questions have been raised over the independence of the report although regional development minister Conor Murphy has defended the investigation.

The permanent secretary at the department Paul Priestly was suspended. The action came after claims he drafted a letter of complaint to a powerful Stormont scrutiny committee that was sent by one of a team of independent investigators probing the business of NIW.

The incident that prompted Mr Priestly's suspension related to later exchanges between one of the investigators and the PAC, which was also investigating the NIW affair.

Northern Ireland auditor Kieran Donnelly met the PAC at Stormont today to determine the scope of his inquiry.

A spokesman for the audit office confirmed: "The comptroller and auditor general has decided to go into Northern Ireland Water having been requested to do so by the PAC. It will be happening in the next few days.

"It is to examine documentation relating to procurement issues identified in various NIW internal audit reports."

Today's PAC meeting was in closed session.

Mr Murphy said: "I very much welcome the involvement of the NIAO in validating the contract procurement failures at NI Water and will await with interest their findings."

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