Record-keeping concerns spark civil service review
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.