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LEDU Concerns - Did disadvantaged communities lose out?

9 February, 2006

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has voiced concerns about the implications of the damming Auditor General report into LEDU and particularly the findings in relation to the establishment and oversight of the Emerging Business Trust (EBT) and questioned whether these mistakes meant that disadvantaged communities lost out.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"This report raises a huge number of questions about the management of LEDU, the EBT programme and particularly about the commitment to effectively encourage economic activity in disadvantaged areas.

"The remit of the EBT to was operate a Loan Fund to provide access to finance for new business starts in disadvantaged areas and for individuals whose circumstances made access to finance difficult.  This is a classic case of those in disadvantaged areas, who need the most help, being let down yet again.

"It is clear that proper monitoring arrangements were not put in place leading to a serious conflict of interest in the establishment and
management of the EBT funds and that normal public sector rules on competitive tendering were not followed. Money meant to help people was spent on running the Trust.

"The Audit Office points to "a profound failure of governance" within LEDU. This is completely unacceptable. Questions need to be asked about how those responsible are made accountable and about how much money actually ended up supporting business start ups in disadvantaged communities and how many jobs were created." ENDS

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