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SF Calls for Invest NI probe

7 August, 2008 - by Maeve McLaughlin

SF Calls for Invest NI probe

Foyle MLA Martina Anderson has expressed confidence that Invest NI will face an Audit Office investigation following Sinn Féin complaints about its failure to deliver jobs and investment to disadvantaged areas of the North.

"I met with the Auditor General John Dowdall this week to discuss the abject failure of Invest NI to tackle regional inequalities across the North," Ms. Anderson said.

"For some time now, Sinn Féin has been conducting a thorough examination of Invest NI's performance. Our investigations have turned up a number of what we regard as very serious anomalies and failures.

"It should also be pointed out that Invest NI was unable to answer several key questions which Sinn Féin submitted regarding Invest NI's performance - despite the fact that they were instructed to address theses issues in a Public Accounts Committee report ten years ago.

"In particular, our investigations have firmly established that Invest NI has done practically nothing to deliver investment to the areas of the North which need it the most. This is in spite of Assembly and Executive commitments which require public bodies such as Invest NI to proactively address regional inequalities.

"And no matter how Invest NI attempts to defend their record, the evidence we have uncovered paints a stark picture of their failings.

"For instance, the relatively affluent constituency of South Belfast routinely receives more Invest NI-promoted jobs and projects than the combined total for the entire border corridor of Foyle, West Tyrone, Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Newry and Armagh.

"The 11 councils west of the Bann received only 27% of investment while Belfast and the East received 73%.

"The six parliamentary constituencies west of the Bann receive only 26% of investment with Derry's share amounting to less than 8%

"We have also uncovered the fact that Invest NI has spent huge amounts of public money on renting empty buildings with lengthy leases at one site in Campsie and three sites in South Belfast totalling £2.1 million - an amount that is continuing to grow by the day.

"We brought all of these issues - and many more - to the Auditor's attention and Sinn Féin will be submitting a detailed dossier of the evidence we have gathered to his office in the coming weeks.

"The Auditor has already confirmed that he will probe a number of the concerns we have highlighted and that he will consider a wider investigation into Invest NI's overall performance as part of his forward work programme.

"I am confident that the evidence we have gathered - and continue to uncover - justifies an in-depth investigation of Invest NI and I look forward to that happening in the time ahead."

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