Record-keep­ing con­cerns spark civil ser­vice re­view

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY STAFF RE­PORTER

A RE­VIEW is cur­rently un­der­way into the code of ethics for the North­ern Ire­land Civil Ser­vice (NICS) af­ter con­cerns around record-keep­ing were raised at the RHI In­quiry.

The Depart­ment of Fi­nance, which is re­spon­si­ble for the code, told the BBC that the NICS code is cur­rently un­der re­view. Dur­ing the in­quiry it was claimed some Stor­mont meet­ings were not be­ing min­uted due to con­cerns that in­for­ma­tion from them could be re­leased.

NICS head David Ster­ling said it was “safer” not to have a record which might have to be re­leased fol­low­ing a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest. He said the DUP and Sinn Fein were sen­si­tive to crit­i­cism and se­nior civil ser­vants had “got into the habit” of not record­ing all meet­ings.

North­ern Ire­land’s code for civil ser­vants is sim­i­lar to the rest of the UK, but the North­ern Ire­land ver­sion omits the re­quire­ment to “keep ac­cu­rate of­fi­cial records”.

In her fi­nal writ­ten ev­i­dence to the RHI In­quiry, Ar­lene Foster had called for a “fun­damen- tal ap­praisal” of the NICS. “In my view, there is a case for con­sid­er­a­tion of ex­tend­ing the Home Civil Ser­vice to North­ern Ire­land,” she said.

Mrs Foster added that the Depart­ment for En­ergy and Cli­mate Change at West­min­ster had more than 70 peo­ple work­ing on the RHI scheme in Eng­land. In North­ern Ire­land there were just two.

A Depart­ment of Fi­nance Spokesper­son told the BBC that dif­fer­ences be­tween the UK and North­ern Ire­land code were due to “two dif­fer­ent civil ser­vices”.

The spokesper­son said that it would be pos­si­ble to amend the code with­out a Stor­mont Assem­bly in place, but pointed out that a wide rang­ing con­sul­ta­tion would be held be­fore any changes were adopted.

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