Belfast Telegraph

NI Water fails to find new boss

Troubled Northern Ireland Water (NIW) has failed to appoint a new boss.

Even though a costly recruitment campaign produced a shortlist of six candidates, none was considered suitable for the £150,000-a-year post.

The government-owned company, which has been rocked by a series of crises, has gone through four chief executives since it was formed just over six years ago.

An NIW spokesman said: "The competition for the appointment of the CEO for Northern Ireland Water Ltd is now complete, and unfortunately we are unable to make an appointment at this time."

The position will be re-advertised at a later date.

"The company has satisfactory interim arrangements in place which are continually under review, and we will shortly decide on a timetable to re-run the competition," added the spokesman.

Northern Ireland Water is the sole provider of water and sewerage services in the region, supplying 560 million litres of clean water a day for almost 1.8 million people as well as treating 320 million litres of waste water a day.

Sarah Venning, who joined NI Water in April 2010 as director of customer service delivery is currently standing in as chief executive but was not among the shortlisted candidates for the permanent position. Ms Venning did not apply for the new post.

The company has rarely been far from the headlines since its inception in April 2007.

Its first chief executive Kathryn Bryan left in 2008 in the wake of controversy surrounding the miscalculation of future revenue.

Former chairman Chris Mellor then acted as interim chief executive. He and three other part-time non-executive board members were later sacked by former regional development minister Conor Murphy when an audit office report raised concerns about the awarding of contracts.

In January 2011, Laurence MacKenzie was forced to step down after two years at the top amid damning criticism of how he handled the water chaos that left thousands of homes without supplies over Christmas. Mr MacKenzie had been paid £250,000.

His successor Trevor Haslett, a former head of engineering at NI Water who received a salary of £130,000, resigned in August to pursue private consultancy work. His departure is understood to have taken company executives by surprise.

SDLP MLA John Dallat, a member of Stormont's Public Accounts Committee which has previously castigated NIW, has demanded a full explanation for the failure to appoint a new chief executive.

He said: "NIW has a history of drifting aimlessly in the past and against a background which brought no credit on the organisation or those then at the helm.

"We cannot have a repeat of that and we need to know why thousands of pounds in advertising for a new chief executive didn't attract an individual of the calibre that is required to steer the organisation through a very difficult future when important decisions of management are needed.

"NIW need to identify what the failings were in their appointments process that has left them with egg on their face and no chief executive."

Mr Dallat claimed a new recruitment process should be urgently implemented.

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