Auditor’s report highlights causes for concern

Alliance Finance Spokesman Seamus Close has said that the General Report of the Comptroller and Auditor for Northern Ireland published today highlights many teething problems associated with the move to resource accounting.

Mr Close stated: “Many of these problems, and thus weaknesses, are of a technical nature and should be corrected through time, but other issues highlighted are a cause for immediate concern.

“Questions must be asked about the attitude of some managers. I have no doubt that some of the issues highlighted in this report would have been the subject of further scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee if only the Assembly was still operational.

“Those therefore who brought about the suspension of the Assembly must carry some blame for lack of proper accountability on behalf of the taxpayer.”

Mr Close said the section on fraud and incorrectness in social security benefits was “alarming to say the least”, depicting losses as a result of errors by officials, errors by customer and fraud amounts to £120.5 million.

Mr Close noted that instead of reducing losses from fraud and error in, for example, income support and Jobseekers’ Allowance by the five percent target set by the Department’s own public service agreement, there was actually a 60 percent increase.

Income Support, up from £22m in 2001 to £39.5m in 2002 and Jobseekers’ Allowance up from £9.5m to £12.7m during the same period.

The report also highlights other areas where for example propriety in the use of public money for overseas travel and expenses has been questionable, resulting in repayments having to be made.

Mr Close stated: “There is also the issue of taxpayers’ money spent in the financial year of nearly £1m on bins, but rather than being used, these bins were kept in storage. What a load of rubbish! This is not efficient use of taxpayers’ money.”


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