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Financial probe into building of new Magherafelt High School

By Noel McAdam

A “full and comprehensive” investigation has been announced into the building of a Mid-Ulster secondary school after claims of financial irregularities involving the North Eastern Education Board.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane told the Assembly yesterday that allegations surrounding work on the new Magherafelt High School were “serious”.

The Sinn Fein Minister said the Ballymena-based board had paid for work which had not been approved by her Department.

And she told MLAs that chief executive Shane McCurdy had also said the board entered into arrangements with the contractor which resulted in construction work “without necessary approvals” from the Department being in place.

“Moreover the chief executive concluded that the board has incurred spend in the 2010-11 financial year which may be deemed irregular,” she added.

“The issues emerging around the Magherafelt High School are serious and worrying and as Minister of Education I have a duty to ensure transparency, good governance and value for money for the taxpayer.”

A spokesman for contractors Heron Bros Ltd — a family-owned building and civil engineering firm based in Draperstown — said they had no comment to make “at the moment”.

And a statement from the board said it would co-operate fully with the external probe. It said it has already conducted an internal enquiry and given a detailed report to the Department and the Audit Office.

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