Another leak on a ‘leaked’ report. EamonnMallie.com

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A top level probe into the leaking of an audit office report on
Northern Ireland Water in January has run into the sands. A
‘restricted’ document with the name of each member of the Public
Accounts Committee of the Assembly stamped upon it, ( to stop it
being photocopied) and penned by John Stewart, Director of Clerking
and Reporting, concludes after scrutiny of possible communication
distribution systems, that he could not ‘finger’ any individual or
individuals. The report was commissioned by the Public Accounts
Committee when the details of the controversial Northern Ireland Water
report into the performance of NIW, the removal of four directors and
the controversial role played by DRD chief Paul Priestly ended up in
the hands of the BBC and UTV. The Audit Office report had been shared
with the Public Accounts Committee. In Stewart’s report he points out
to Paul Maskey, Chairman of PAC Committee, without having access to
PAC members’ personal phones, tracking the leak would be very
difficult. Mr Stewart advised however, the PAC committee could ‘under
privilege’ raise the matter with the Speaker in accordance with
Standing Order 70. John Stewart suggests ‘ an outsider’ would probably
be needed to move any investigation forward. The paper continued ‘the
Speaker must be satisfied that a prima facie case of breach of
privilege’ had been made before referring the matter to the Committee
on Standards and Privileges. ( That Committee adjudicates on bad
behaviour by a member or members.) A number of members of the Public
Accounts Committee expressed alarm at any suggestion personal phones,
or records covering emails etc should be exposed to investigators. The
fact that a report labelled ‘restricted’ which investigates a leak
only serves to compound an existing embarrassment. 

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I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.

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