19/12/2002

NITB 'deficiencies' will be addressed says Pearson

Finance Minister Ian Pearson has welcomed a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into the activities and running of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) and said he was "adamant" that the organisation's "deficiencies" would be addressed.

The PAC report dealt with a number of investigations of NITB activities by the Comptroller and Auditor General. It covered a range of issues spanning several years, and was strongly critical of a number of aspects of how the NITB was run.

Commenting on the report, Mr Pearson said: "Clearly there have been serious deficiencies in both the organisation and the operation of NITB. The PAC rightly identified a number of areas of unacceptable behaviour and practice, both within NITB and the way it was overseen by DETI. I accept what they have said.

“A detailed action plan to address the problems identified by PAC has been prepared, which includes both actions taken to date and those scheduled for implementation during 2003. I intend to take a close interest in the implementation of this plan and monitor progress in delivering the agreed improvements.

"As a first step in this, I will be meeting the Board of the NITB early in the New Year to discuss how we can best implement the action plan and build on the constructive changes which have already been implemented.

“There is a new Board in place and significant changes have also been made to the senior management team. I am committed to ensuring that the NITB sustains the highest possible standards of public service. The last year has been extremely turbulent for the NITB and I am adamant that this must never be allowed to happen again."

Chairman of PAC, Billy Bell, also welcome the response and said it recognised the scale of the problems revealed in NITB.

"At first glance, it does seem to address many of the issues which we raised," he added.

Mr Bell also described the report as extremely important and that there were many issues the department and the Tourist Board needed learn.

(MB)

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