Northern Ireland news


Stormont committees seeking clarity on Jenny Pyper's appointment to energy company board

Former interim head of the regional civil service Jenny Pyper

TWO STORMONT scrutiny committees are set to probe the circumstances around Jenny Pyper's appointment as a director of a private company just weeks after stepping down as the head of the civil service.

The Irish News revealed earlier this week that the former interim head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is not bound by the same conditions as her predecessors when moving to a role in the private sector, because she was not a civil servant.

Ms Pyper was appointed as a non-executive director of Firmus Energy at the start of this month without the usual ‘cooling off' period that can prevent former senior civil servants from taking jobs with private firms for up to two years.

A spokesperson for Firmus said Ms Pyper "followed due process, sought and secured all the necessary approvals" before joining the company board.

The former temporary NICS head is prevented under guidelines from lobbying on behalf of her new employers for 12 months due to her previous role as chief executive of the Utility Regulator, which she left at the end of October last year.

The Executive Office committee will write to Paul Givan and Michelle O'Neill's joint office seeking clarification on what its chair termed the "revolving door policy and practice".

SDLP MLA Sinead McLaughlin said Ms Pyper's appointment to the Firmus board "raises three governance issues".

"One, is why she was apparently not employed as a civil servant?; two, that this means she is not subject to rules in relation to the so-called 'revolving door’ system of moving between the public and private sectors; and three, whether it is appropriate for someone who was the former Utility Regulator to become a director of a company that she regulated until October last year?", she said at yesterday's committee hearing.

"I propose that the committee write to the Executive Office to request an explanation regarding all three points and provide clarification on the ‘revolving door’ policy and practice."

Meanwhile, the finance committee will write to Finance Minister Conor Murphy regarding the appointment.

When the committee met yesterday, a number of MLAs raised concerns about the revelation that Ms Pyper was not a civil servant and its potential implications.

The committee also plans to quiz the head of the civil service Jayne Brady about the appointment when she appears before MLAs in the coming weeks.

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