Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Housing executive faces new probe

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood

A team including fraud investigators has started a major review of the organisation responsible for social housing in Northern Ireland.

The investigation revealed by Social Development Minister Alex Attwood comes as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is already the subject of a series of separate inquiries, including one by the police.

Mr Attwood said that in the latest development he had ordered a team of specialists with audit, management, personnel and fraud expertise to carry out an immediate "governance audit" to search for wider problems in the organisation.

Police are investigating a land deal involving the Housing Executive and a development company, which includes the chairman of Northern Ireland's Policing Board Barry Gilligan among its directors.

Mr Gilligan, who is on sick leave following heart surgery, denies wrongdoing in the case.

Mr Attwood said he would take no action that would interfere with live inquiries, but said: "People will be aware that there are several ongoing investigations in relation to Housing Executive activities, including the disposal of land at Nelson Street and other matters relating to contractors and to the behaviour of individual members of staff.

"These investigations are ongoing, including cases with the Ombudsman and the police. I want to be reassured that there are no other serious or systemic problems in respect of any of the work of the Housing Executive."

The Minister said the Executive's board was told of his decision on Wednesday last week. He said the audit team had already started its work. The audit is in addition to a fundamental strategic review of the Housing Executive due to begin shortly.

The Minister advised NIHE of his decision to carry out the fundamental strategic review on September 7. Further details of the review will be given to the Stormont Assembly in a ministerial statement next Monday.

Mr Attwood said he believed there are a range of issues, including investigations, facing the Housing Executive that require his department to intervene to ensure the robustness of body's governance systems.

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