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Maskey welcomes audit report on Campsie office accomodation

24 March, 2010

Sinn Féin Chair Person of the Public Accounts Committee Paul Maskey MLA has welcomed the Audit Office reports on the Campsie Office Accommodation and Synergy e-Business Incubator (SeBL).

Paul Maskey stated “the report on Campsie together with Synergy will form the basis of a PAC Session on 20th May. I look forward to hearing from the Department how this came about and what it has done to ensure that such a situation will not occur again”.

“With regard to the Synergy Report I want to clarify that PAC recognises that in an area such as INI, risks will be taken with projects that will not always lead to a successful outcome – that is the nature of business. However, we are willing to accept such outcomes as long as INI, or indeed any other part of the public sector, can demonstrate that it has applied the appropriate risk management guidance in a professional and proportional manner.

However, in this particular case project risks had been flagged up at early stages and should have been more fully acted on – Despite consultants highlighting serious problems with the project at an early stage, which subsequently had a damaging impact on the success of SeBI, IRTU took the overall view that the project was valid in principle, and recommended that DETI should proceed to fund it.

Furthermore, the project was not re-appraised following a number of key events which impacted significantly on SCL’s commercial viability. Such re-appraisal could have enabled an assessment of the ongoing viability of the project, and the merits of continuing to fund it.

Some of the key findings from the Campsie report are below.

Risks in the project risks had been flagged up at early stages and should have been more fully acted on - Valuation and Lands Office (VLO) had expressed concerns to IDB on a number of occasions before the leases were signed about the scale, location and demand for the project. VLO specifically suggested that the project should be restricted to a single 10,000 square feet unit to minimise cost and assess demand, but IDB opted to proceed with the full 20,000 square feet project.

Ongoing project monitoring and management should have been more robust - Whilst the failure of IDB in 1996 to break from the leases appears to have been attributable to an oversight which proved very costly, the Audit Office found no evidence of an enquiry by IDB to determine the circumstances surrounding the events at the time, or establish whether any individuals within the organisation were culpable.

Significant issues arose over the condition of the units. Although IDB was initially aware in 1998 that the units had been in a poor state of repair, decisive action to ensure that the developers maintained the units properly was not commenced by Invest NI until mid-2005.

Paul Maskey concluded saying that he “commends the work from the Audit Office on the two reports and I look forward to the PAC session on the 20th May when we will have the department in front of our committee.

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