There should be an independent inquiry into the Executive operation of the controversial Social Investment Fund (SIF), Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has said.
Mr Lyttle was speaking after publication of a report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office into the scheme. It identified a number of ‘serious concerns’ in the scheme. These include conflicts of interest which were not always dealt with, documentation around project selection being poor and the scheme not operating transparently.
The report also states the guidance produced by the Executive Office was ‘inadequate’, with little evidence procedures were followed.
Mr Lyttle, who referred the matter of SIF to the Audit Office, said the deep public concern had been borne out by its report.
“Whilst some organisations may be delivering good outcomes on several projects, SIF has been characterised by a lack of transparency and delivery since its inception. The decision of the DUP and Sinn Féin to dispense with proper public procedures for the appointment of steering groups and lead partners is another governance failure by these two parties.
“The management structure, in addition to the lack of minutes and accountability around the entire scheme, are just some of the many reasons Alliance brought an Assembly motion expressing deep concern around the formation, implementation and operation of SIF, while calling for an independent review of the entire process. However, it was defeated by a combination of DUP and Sinn Féin votes.
“These fundamental issues are why there should be an independent inquiry commissioned into SIF and its operation immediately, so the lessons which this report outlines can be learned and we can ensure there is no repeat of the vast sums of public money being spent without proper accountability.”