Ilex jobs turnover hit Ebrington plans, says Audit chief

The former Ebrington Barracks site.
The former Ebrington Barracks site.

The high turnover of senior officials at Ilex - Derry’s regeneration body - has had a “significant impact” on its plans to transform the former Ebrington Barracks site, a government spending watchdog said this week.

The Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) noted that Derry’s urban regeneration company is already on to its third Chief Executive in just seven years.

The NIAO also pointed out that, since June 2004, there have been periods of 12 and 9 months where no permanent Chief Executive was in place at Ilex while, prior to the appointment of its current chair in October 2007, there were three previous chairs/acting chairs.

However, according to the NIAO, the turnover of individuals in recent years has “improved” with the current Chair and Board members leading Ilex through “significant change” for the last four years.

Continuity of senior officials, says the NIAO, is important as “high turnover can represent a serious threat to the success of projects. “

The details are included in a report issued this week by the Comptroller and Auditor General - the head of the NIAO - to the Northern Ireland Assembly on the Transfer of Former Military and Security Sites to the Northern Ireland Executive.

Comptroller Kieran Donnelly’s report reveals that money earmarked for the redevelopment of Ebrington may have been spent elsewhere.

It appears that money from the sale of another barracks in Magherafelt should have gone to Ilex but, instead, went to the Executive.

Magherafelt barracks was one of six sites which were transferred to the Executive for free in 2003. This was done on the basis that any money raised from their sale would be used for peace projects.

The NI Audit Office says it is unclear if this was achieved.

Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood says the NIAO report reveals a “combination of wasted time and money.”

“The lack of due diligence carried out within the government departments is particularly damning,” he added. “Regeneration projects, which could have provided a substantial lift to the economy during this period of financial hardship, remain unstarted, delayed or incomplete.

“It is, therefore, more important than ever that the sites of key economic value, such as those at Ebrington and the Maze/Long Kesh, are regenerated and developed without further delay.”