Ilex criticised over ‘irregular spending’

Derry’s regeneration body, Ilex, has been criticised by local politicians following a report from the auditor general which raised concerns about the overspend of £400,000 of public money.

Junior Minister Martina Anderson said accountability is needed when public money is spent. “The Board of ILEX is expected to demonstrate a high standard of corporate governance. Ilex’s accounts have been qualified meaning that they are not in good shape. That in turn means that OFMDFM’s accounts have been qualified. All four ministers are not at all pleased.

“The ministers from OFMDFM and DSD met the directors and the chair when he was in place and as a result the corporate affairs director has now taken on the role of deputy chief executive with authority over all areas of the organisation.

“We have to make sure that we safeguard public money and that no one is cavalier with public money. It is the responsibility of the accounting officer, who is the CEO, to be responsible for safeguarding public funds,” she said.

Foyle SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood described the report as “very worrying.” “It is imperative that the highest levels of financial accountability are maintained in public bodies. Ilex has in this instance fallen short of these standards.

“I would call on Ilex to quickly clarify the reason for this failure. Their main departmental sponsor, OFMDFM, also have a clear responsibility to outline their role and response in this matter,” he said.

Matt McNulty, interim chairman of Ilex, said; “With so many positive developments, it is disappointing that Ilex’s 2010-11 accounts have been qualified. The Board of Ilex takes this matter very seriously. We have acted promptly to improve internal controls. We undertook an in-depth review of the regularity of all expenditure and of all the reasons why approvals were not obtained in advance, as required by the Department of Finance and Personnel and our two sponsor departments.

“The Ilex Board has approved a comprehensive programme of action. putting in place the systems, protocols and procedures required to ensure full compliance with the required systems and procedures going forward.”