Water scandal – Don’t pay Water Charges

The sacking of four bosses of NI Water for overseeing corrupt links with private companies is further proof that privatisation is central to the water charges agenda. NI Water Chairman, Chris Mellor and Directors John Ballard, Ruth Thompson and Declan Gormley were sacked after it became known that former NI Water bosses had been given jobs by companies which had been awarded major contracts. Don’t feel any sympathy for these bosses though – they received more than £500,000 between them in bonuses and fees in just three years!

According to NI Water, there was a “serious breakdown in the governance and control framework” of how contracts were awarded. It has been unveiled that at least 21 contracts, representing a total value of £8.4million, were signed with private companies which had close links with senior managers in NI Water.

Since it was established as a private company, NI Water has been littered with mismanagement, corruption and incompetence. In 2008, NI Water bosses overestimated its forecasted revenue by £20m, leading to every household facing an extra £30 on their water bill. Chief Executive, Katherine Bryan, was later forced to resign but was paid a massive £266,000 severance package before she left.

In 2006, a £70 million contract was signed with Crystal Alliance, a consortium of private companies, to send out water bills. After the politicians were forced to defer water charges as a result of the support for mass non-payment of water charges, NI Water paid out £3million to Crystal Alliance in terminating the contract – an enormous waste of public money.

Assembly Executive supports privatisation
Although nepotism and corruption between NI Water bosses and big business was extensive, at no time did Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, see the need to intervene. In fact, less than a year ago, Conor Murphy praised the reappointment of Chris Mellor who received £40,000 per year for three days work per month and John Ballard and Ruth Thompson who received £18,000 per year for two days work per month!

Murphy showed his unfettered support for these crooks and the use of privatisation when he stated “All three have served the board well over the past three years…” going on to say “I am confident that, under the continued chairmanship of Chris Mellor, NI Water has a strong board, with the ability and capacity to meet these challenges.” It was only when stories of suspected corruption began to appear in the press that the Minister decided to sack the four board members.

Private companies, such as Thames Water, have taken over much of the water service. All public private partnership contracts should be immediately terminated with no compensation paid to these companies. NI Water must be completely returned to the public sector and run under democratic workers’ control, fully accountable and transparent to the scrutiny of the people of Northern Ireland.

The only reason for the introduction of water charges is to eventually privatise the service. This must not be allowed happen. Water charges must be defeated. The best way of defeating water charges is to prepare for mass non-payment. That is why the We Won’t Pay Campaign needs to be built in every estate, town and city.

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