Sunday 17 December 2017

Ousted water chief stole from church

Former Northern Ireland Water Chief Executive Laurence MacKenzie who is a convicted embezzler. Photo: PA
Former Northern Ireland Water Chief Executive Laurence MacKenzie who is a convicted embezzler. Photo: PA

Ousted Northern Ireland Water boss Laurence MacKenzie is a convicted embezzler, it was revealed today.

He swindled his church in the Scottish Highlands out of £2,000 almost 30 years ago.

MacKenzie, 49, lost his £250,000-a-year job as head of the state-owned water company in the aftermath of the leaks fiasco which left tens of thousands of homes in the North without water over Christmas and the New Year.

He stole the money from West Kirk church in Thurso, Caithness, while he was working for the Bank of Scotland as a junior teller.

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh said today: "We can confirm that, following an investigation, Mr MacKenzie was convicted and removed from his post as treasurer in 1982."

He was convicted of embezzling £2,000 by a court. He was not sent to prison.

MacKenzie became chief executive of NIW in June 2009 after several years heading Northern Ireland Electricity.

A spokesman for Northern Ireland Water said: "We are making no comment."

MacKenzie resigned last week after 40,000 households in the North were left without water over the festive period.

The embarrassing episode was triggered after a deep freeze over Christmas ended with a rapid thaw, leading to thousands of burst water pipes.

The focus of the criticism of NIW involved its failure to communicate adequately with customers, many of whom were left with no water for two weeks.

During the crisis, thousands of people said they were unable to get through on the company's phoneline and experienced difficulties with its website.

A Stormont committee has been told NIW was overwhelmed by more than a million contacts from the public at the height of the crisis.

The company received 600,000 phone calls in three days at the height of the episode and was sent 10,000 emails, while its website was bombarded by half a million hits.

A review of NIW by Utility Regulator Shane Lynch is expected to cost around £100,000.

Press Association

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