The Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) has acknowledged Derry City and Strabane District Council is subject to an “initial inquiry” following complaints by whistleblower and former Brickkiln boss, Tommy McGlinchey, who has complained the firm was put to the wall after the local authority stopped paying for waste disposal services in April of 2015.
The Council has also acknowledged it is aware of a PSNI investigation regarding a complaint by local firm, City Security Services, in relation to Council contracts, although it insists it is not the subject of that investigation.
The probe came to light during a dramatic intervention at the Assurance, Audit and Risk Committee on Wednesday.
Officers were asked in June if there were any ongoing investigations involving the NIAO, the Ombudsman or the PSNI and on Wednesday afternoon reported there were none.
But Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher said: “We have been asking for assurances that Derry City and Strabane District Council are not subject to any investigation by the PSNI?
“Does that also include the two legacy councils, Derry City and Strabane District?
Lead assurance officer at the Council Ms D McDonnell replied that “anything outstanding has transferred to the new Council” and that “Council is not subject to any investigation by the Ombudsman, the PSNI or the Audit Office.”
Shortly afterwards Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly intervened, stating:
“I’ve been approached by members of the public and been told details of two investigations, one by the PSNI and one by the Audit Office.”
At this point Committee Chair Eric McGinley went into recess to receive details of correspondence between Tommy McGlinchey and Tony Stuart, formerly of Brickkiln and Colette Kane of the NIAO, dating from this and last month.
Mr Donnelly said he had been handed “copies of correspondence between the firm and the NIAO” by Mr McGlinchey who was in the public gallery during the meeting.
He also said he was in receipt of a crime reference number regarding a report of an allegation of fraud involving a complaint made on behalf of the City Security Services firm in which an investigating officer was named.
Ms O’Kane of the NIAO said: “I’m aware of the documents...Brickkiln have approached me as a whistleblower.”
The auditor said the correspondence between her and Mr McGlinchey was not an investigation but rather an “initial inquiry.”
She said progress on the whistleblower’s complaint had been slow due to the completion of local government audits at this time of year and that she was hoping to return to it with greater attention in October.
Ms McDonnell, in reference to the PSNI complaint lodged by City Security Services, said: ”We’re aware of the PSNI investigation but the last conversation we had with the investigating officer was that there was an investigation but Council was not subject of that investigation.,
Mr Gallagher asked if the report could be amended to say there were a number of ongoing inquiries.
This was agreed and the correspondence between Brickkiln and the NIAO was handed to Council officers to be formally processed.