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Maskey critical of flawed appointments process at Hospitality Association

30 June, 2008

A highly critical Public Accounts Committee report on the Hospitality Association NI (HANI), published today, condemns the way that two departments - Employment and Learning and Culture, Arts and Leisure - managed both the financial control and public appointments processes.

The Committee concluded that the findings in the report stood out as a lesson to the public sector.

Sinn Féin Chair of the Committee Paul Maskey MLA said,

"This report contains an astonishing catalogue of shortcomings. In far too many respects, the two Departments involved got it wrong, showing poor judgement, slow responses, inadequate liaison and an unwillingness to sort out the problems. There were even situations where senior officials appeared to turn a blind eye to behaviour that was manifestly improper."

"This report also identified that many of the failings took place in areas where a vast amount of best practice guidelines were in place, more often than not however, this was ignored. On a number of occasions the opportunity to rectify this situation was missed.

"With regard to the Departments' financial management processes working with HANI, it is scandalous that HANI misappropriated public funds. There are many other groups which provide much-needed public services and do so professionally and with integrity. But there are also an unscrupulous few, who wish to rip the tax payer off with false claims for public funds. Departments should act as a firm line of defence against such attempts."

"The evidence from the Commissioner for Public Appointments showed that there have been many weaknesses in the public appointments system operating here in the North, the Committee is making it clear that a continuing perception of cronyism isn't compatible with the structures established; there is an enormous challenge for the Senior Civil Service and the Committee expects it to act quickly in order to regain public confidence." CRÍOCH

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