Ulster Unionist MLA, Mike Nesbitt has described revelations that the Executive Office does not hold a clear audit trail in relation to funding being awarded from the Social Investment Fund as “breath-taking”.
Mike Nesbitt MLA said:
“The Northern Ireland Audit Office report is damning in its own right, but in the context of what we have heard from the RHI Inquiry, yet more proof that the 10 years the DUP and SF ran devolution from Stormont Castle was a wasted decade for our people.
“For anyone who has had any experience of the DUP/Sinn Fein Executive over the last ten years, the total disregard for good governance found in this report will not come as a surprise. For anyone thinking RHI was a blip, this report shows the failings are systemic.
“This was an administration that thought it was untouchable. Those Sinn Fein and DUP representatives who had the audacity to attack parties who questioned the process should now, frankly, feel deeply embarrassed after being exposed.
“It should be breath-taking to read the Executive Office does not hold a clear audit trail regarding how the money was awarded, but sadly it is simply not surprising to anyone who tried to warn the project was flawed from the beginning.
“We are supportive of the rationale behind the fund and the need to target funds towards areas of dereliction and deprivation. However, the promise made to those people most in need that the fund would be spent over 3 years was not kept and SIF will now run for a total of eight years.
“The DUP and Sinn Fein raged against austerity from London, yet couldn't spend £80m tackling poverty on their own doorstep. As a concept SIF is about the DUP and Sinn Fein taking a good idea and mangling it.
“Ultimately the losers are our people, especially the many unpaid volunteers in the community groups who were asked to do too much, too quickly, for so little reward.
“It is striking the Audit report finds that the fund was designed in such a way that conflicts of interest were not just likely, but actually inevitable.
“The Audit Office make recommendations about better governance. The UUP make a recommendation about better politics. Give Stormont Castle back to parties who are willing and able to govern in partnership, in the best interests of all.
“If we are to see the devolved institutions return, it cannot simply be a case of picking up where things were left off. There must be a major reform of how we do business. The days of the Sinn Fein/DUP cabal must be over.”