Two PSNI employees at the centre of a contracts investigation have been suspended from work for over three and a half years, it has been revealed.
The civilian staff members were given “precautionary suspensions” in 2005 as part of the fallout from a £400,000 court case payout by the police service.
It was confirmed within the past week by a high-ranking officer that the suspensions remained in place.
The PSNI agreed the £400,000 out-of-court payout to Belfast company Northern Ireland Sheet Metal Works in October 2005.
The company had launched High Court proceedings after its contract to supply armour plating for vehicles had been cancelled.
Commenting on the case after the settlement was reached, Judge Sir Liam McCollum called for a criminal investigation. He said there was a “prima facie” case that “some person or persons” within the police service had “deliberately undermined” Northern Ireland Sheet Metal Works and “wrongfully discredited” its performance.
The judge also said it was “difficult to attribute an innocent motive or to absolve any person involved in the decision making process”.
The two PSNI civilian employees were suspended in November 2005 and a Fraud Squad investigation was launched. In the summer of 2007 it was revealed that no charges were to be brought.
However, the suspensions remained in place pending the outcome of internal PSNI deliberations. An update has now been provided to Ulster peer Lord Laird, who recently tabled a Parliamentary question on the case.
In a letter replying to the peer, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton stated: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland can confirm that two members of the police staff were suspended on November 3, 2005 to allow an investigation to take place following allegations against the individuals, which arose in the course of litigation between PSNI and the Northern Ireland Sheet Metal Workers Limited.
“An independent investigation has now been completed and the matter is proceeding to a disciplinary panel.
“The individuals remain suspended until the disciplinary panel is convened. Dates had been arranged for the disciplinary panel to sit but the panel sitting has been adjourned and attempts are being made to reach a convenient date.”
The judge estimated that the affair had cost taxpayers around £1m, taking into account the £400,000 settlement, legal costs and higher prices charged by an English firm that took over the contract.