08/11/2018

Stormont Fund For Disadvantaged Areas Did Not Operate Transparently

A Stormont fund to aid disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland did not operate transparently and had "significant failings", according to a report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO).

The £93million Social Investment Fund (SIF), which was administered by the Executive Office, was allocated to support projects tackling deprivation.

The audit was published today, 08 November, by the Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly, and identifies "a number of serious concerns" in the initial stages of the fund, including "conflicts of interest which were not always appropriately dealt with".

It also highlights "significant failings in the governance framework" that underpin the initiative, and reveals that the Executive Office "does not hold a clear audit trail in relation to the award of public funding".
News Image
The report concludes by urging that lessons are learned and improvements made when similar public spending schemes are developed, and makes seven clear recommendations including the Executive Office holding documentation "to justify why decisions were made and demonstrate that assessment processes have been applied fairly, consistently and transparently".

Mr Donnelly added that the findings over the governance of the scheme are "very concerning".

"The importance of good administration and ensuring conflicts of interest are adequately handled should be well understood in the public sector," he said.

"But in the case of the SIF, the guidance produced by the department was inadequate, there was little evidence that procedures were followed, and a number of conflicts weren't declared.

"Evidence from my audit work across the public sector suggests there is a role for additional expertise to support good governance and maintaining high standards."



(JG)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

18 April 2019
Small Grants Scheme Open For Volunteer Projects
Local communities in Northern Ireland are encouraged to apply for the 'Live Here Love Here' small grants scheme for volunteer projects. Grants from £500 to £5000 are available for various initiatives as part of the scheme that takes a fresh approach to improving local environments and building pride in local communities.
18 April 2002
Dodds announces extra help for “most needy" in society
The Minister for Social Development, Nigel Dodds, has announced a further £1.73 million cash injection for the Northern Ireland Social fund. The increase brings the Social Fund, which helps the most needy people in society up to a total to £51 million for the next year.
19 October 2017
Police Chief Under Investigation Over Alleged Misconduct In Public Office
Northern Ireland's police chief is being investigated over alleged misconduct in public office. Mr George Hamilton and a number of other PSNI officers are being investigated by the Police Ombudsman. The claims are in relation to how the police handled an inquiry into the awarding of a contract to supply vehicles to the force.
24 January 2018
Public Transport Under Threat In Rural Communities
Rural communities across Northern Ireland Ireland may lose their bus services as Translink said it can no longer afford to run them. The firm said it has been drawing from its own reserves to keep the services running at a cost of £13 million per year.
19 January 2018
SDLP Shares 'Public Cynicism' Over Negotiations Between Two Main Parties
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said he shares the "deep public cynicism on whether the DUP and Sinn Féin are truly up for the challenge of forming a government". He made the statement after Secretary of State Karen Bradley confirmed fresh talks to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland are to begin next week.