Monday 10 January 2011
Hasn't He Done Well
It's not every day I read the Daily Record, but I was directed towards an article today. It concerns Laurence MacKenzie, the recently resigned boss of Northern Ireland Water.
Mr MacKenzie was born and bred in Caithness in the north of Scotland - a place where his family still live.
When he was 21 he stole cash from the collection plate at West Church in Thurso. If the article is to believed, Mr MacKenzie's action wasn't just a one-off act of stupidity, but a well planned fraud. At the time he was a junior teller with the Royal Bank of Scotland in Thurso when he was recommended for the treasurer's position at West Church. He had responsibility for counting cash from the collection plate and banking it at the RBS where he worked. He pocketed the donations and it was said it was calculated that he embezzled £9,000 but when he went to court he was convicted of stealing £2000.
He avoided a jail sentence and left Thurso to study an accountancy degree at Abertay University Dundee (I couldn't think of a more appropriate course for a financial fraudster to study). The article doesn't say if he completed his degree but in the mid 80s he applied to become a Church of Scotland minister. He was turned down.
During this time he met and married a 'nice girl' from Northern Ireland, so after his job application with the Church of Scotland was rejected, he went back to Belfast. In 2009 he became boss of Northern Ireland Water.
I'm certainly not against anyone having a second or even third chance in life after making daft mistakes, but Mr MacKenzie's fraud was calculated over a period of time. He must have known he would be discovered yet he continued. His family appear to have been comfortably off at the time and to be respected in Caithness. Few are willing to speak about Mr MacKenzie who, when he quit as boss of N I Water, said he believed in the principles of responsibility and accountability.
But - and there's always a but - an unnamed source (perhaps dubious) said "After the case the RBS, who had sacked MacKenzie, gave the West Church an ex-gratia payment of around £3,000 but none of the money was ever paid back by MacKenzie".
Mr MacKenzie has been earning £250,000 a year in his job with N Ireland Water and is reported to be in line from a £96,000 to £200,000 golden handshake - depending on which source you would like to believe.
Surely, if he is so devout (having a desire to become a minister in the CoS), he could have refunded his ill-gotten gains.
My generation usually take morals such as trust seriously. To younger generations we may seem uncompromising but that is not so. If it were true then we wouldn't tolerate the bureaucracy which surrounds our health and care as we age. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we see the failings of our fellow man with more objectiveness, but don't have the energy to protest nearly as loudly as we did , on other issues, when young.
Hasn't Mr MacKenzie done well?