Assembly Election was sparked by several governance failures and new Executive must up its game, says accountancy body in scathing manifesto


A major public accountancy body says Thursday's Assembly Election was part precipitated by several governance failures, one of which could lead to an overspend of public money of up to £485m, and warns any incoming Executive needs to up its game in terms of prudent governance of the public finances.

The newly elected Northern Ireland Executive must improve governance of public services and resources to prevent further political upheaval, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) warned on Tuesday.

Head of Devolved Administrations at CIPFA, Don Peebles said: "The Northern Ireland Executive drastically needs to improve its public financial management. Indeed, the reason for the 2017 election is, in part, the result of a series of already well publicised governance failures.

“It is time to put public services on the right financial footing again, as only through good governance can Northern Ireland deliver modern and progressive public services. Core principles have to be established that will protect those services from corruption and help the people of Northern Ireland regain confidence in public bodies and their leaders.

“The newly elected Assembly needs to put the public interest at the heart of its agenda straightaway and keep it there as the foundation of its decision making going forward.”

In a scathing manifesto prepared to coincide with this week's poll, CIPFA published a list of demands for any new Executive.

CIFPA states: "The newly elected Executive must re-assert responsible and ethical governance principles. Public service entities will need to be reviewed and monitored to ensure they have these principles interwoven into their behaviours and practices and are working in the public interest."

The body suggests: "That any outgoing ministers must work with their replacements to set out strategic outcomes for public service bodies. CIPFA believes that in order to realise these outcomes, there must be measurable improvements in performance."

It warns: "To achieve financial sustainability, the Northern Ireland Executive must assess the available resources and how they can be best applied to meet the needs of its population. This should include an appraisal of the future funding needed to support the delivery of health and social care."

CIPFA also advocates: "That the remit for a new fiscal council, which was proposed in the Fresh Start Agreement, should be established. This remit should include powers to develop its own independent long-term financial forecasts. CIPFA claims the council would be able to effectively support the devolution of further tax and borrowing powers by monitoring and scrutinising the finances of the Northern Ireland Executive."

It adds: "That the newly elected Assembly should use Brexit as an opportunity to reassess the devolved powers and funding mechanisms to better serve local communities.

"As by devolving further powers, some of which will be regained from the EU, the Executive may be able to more successfully manage public services and grow the local economy. As well as this, CIPFA believes that Barnett formula should be replaced with a funding mechanism that takes account of local need."