22/05/2012

Quango Probe Could Cost One Million Pounds

An independent investigation into the dealings of a defunct Stormont quango will cost the taxpayer nearly a million pounds.

The Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC) folded with debts of £1.6m and auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers were asked to probe its financial dealings.

Although they were commissioned in 2008, their report will not be completed until 2013, at an estimated final cost of £900,000.

The facts came to light after questions asked by Strangford MLA David McNarry in the Assembly.

Mr McNarry said: "This is a disgrace. It has been a blank cheque. We will have spent a million pounds finding out how we lost a million pounds. It is six years since the Events Company went under and this is not near completion."

The NIEC was set up to promote concerts and sports events but there was a break-down in accountability between its board and the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) before irregular loans and payments became public.

In 2008 the then-Culture Minister Edwin Poots said the deficit occurred "because of a fundamental breakdown of controls and procedures at a number of levels."

He said the NIEC went ahead with spending on events without getting proper approval from its board or from DCAL.

A spokesman for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), which appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the current delay and cost were due to the investigation being "significantly more complex" than was first thought.

Findings from the investigation could be handed over to the Director for Public Prosecutions.

(NE)

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