PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has been appointed to carry out an external and independent review of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA’s) handling of concerns raised by former department vet Dr. Tamara Bronckaers.

The two-part review has been jointly commissioned by the head of Civil Service, Jayne Brady, DAERA permanent secretary Katrina Godfrey and Department of Finance (DoF) permanent secretary Neil Gibson. 

It is expected to be completed by the end of July 2022, after which it will be overseen by a group and then published. This timeline may change, depending on the findings of the first phase.

The first phase of the review will be fact-finding, the department said, while the second phase will look at lessons learned and provide recommendations for improvements for the future handling of such matters.

The review will include the handling of the concerns when they were raised; the process followed and advice provided when the Industrial Tribunal complaint was received; the steps taken to prepare for and respond to the issues raised at the Tribunal; and the steps taken following the completion of the Tribunal proceedings and communication of its judgement.

The Terms of Reference for the review have been published.

Whistleblower vet

Dr. Tamara Bronckaers, a former vet within the Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Service Animal Health Group, won a landmark action against the department in 2021 after she discovered livestock movement rules were being “abused” by livestock markets in Northern Ireland.

When Dr. Bronckaers raised these issues she found senior staff within the department to be unsupportive of her concerns, admonishing her for pursuing the issue, ultimately resulting in her constructive dismissal.