'

A Year Ago: Utility watchdogs slate NAO report

Originally published Thu, 18 Feb 1999 17:06:42 GMT

Utility regulators today hit back at a National Audit Office (NAO) report which accused them of being vague about millennium bug fix work and of poor contingency planning.

The report, published this earlier this week, raised concerns about lack of communication between key utilities and the regulatory bodies and called for a higher level of public awareness on the issues.

A spokesman for NAO claimed regulators need to do more to publicise where key services -- such as electricity, gas and water -- are in preparedness for Y2K. The report also raised concerns about contingency planning.

Hitting back at claims of inadequate contingency planning, a spokesman for Oftel -- the telecommunications industry watchdog -- said: "One operator actually includes a note to walk round the office and put pens and paper on every desk on December 27. That is how detailed the contingency planning is." He declined to say which operator was involved.

Oftel is confident that phone networks will cope with emergency service calls. "It is the first thing we looked at," the spokesman said. The telecoms watchdog denied the industry could do more to reassure people. "We are hoping people are getting the message from the press," he said.

It claimed 90 percent of the telecoms industry would be compliant by the middle of the year, but it has yet to implement independent assessments of telephone companies.

Meanwhile, water regulator OfWat refuted claims that it was out of touch. "There have been visits from independent engineering consultants. They have checked the data sensitive equipment at a number of sites. The indication is the water industry is well on the way to compliance," she said.

Asked whether the public should fret about having running water on 1 January 2000, OfWat's spokeswoman replied: "We would say that based on independent verification companies are making progress and, by July, will be able to say there is no material risk of disruption to the water supply," she said.