ALLIANCE Finance Spokesman Seamus Close has said he is not surprised to learn of financial improprieties in the ‘Into the West’ project managed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
Mr Close said: “It seems this project wasn’t so much about bringing jobs and investment ‘Into the West’, as it was about going ‘into the red’. When you see taxpayers’ money being spent on £60 pizza, ‘Into the West’ starts to look more and more like a cowboy operation.
“We should not be satisfied with lower-level civil servants being punished, and I would say that a culture of change should start at the top, so that if there have been failures, then the heads that roll should be those in charge. What we are talking about here are accounting officers and chief executives.
“Sadly, this sort of disclosure is becoming an annual event at the Department of ‘Excuses and Terrible Inadequacies’.
Mr Close said that the position of John McKinney, the chief executive of a European Union Special Programmes Body, who was chairman of Into the West at the time of the unaccounted for credit card spending, was now untenable.
“If someone can lord over the mismanagement of a budget the size of Into the West’s and make such a mess of it, why in the name of goodness should they be put in charge of a budget that stretches to hundreds of millions of pounds?
“Every penny of taxpayers’ money spent in the public sector needs to be scrutinised. This was a catastrophic failure that should never be allowed to happen again.”