Belfast Telegraph

Council staff taking average of 10 days a year on the sick

By Adrian Rutherford

Council staff miss 10 days at work every year because of sickness, today's Audit Office report reveals.

Carrickfergus Borough Council had the highest absenteeism rate, with staff missing an average of 15.94 days a year.

That is four times the rate of the best authority, Magherafelt District Council, where staff missed just 4.28 days on average.

The figures relate to the 2011/12 year – the most recent statistics available. According to the Audit Office, the overall Northern Ireland rate fell from 10.89 days in 2010/11 to 10.27 days in 2011/12.

However, 10 of the councils saw their absenteeism rates increase. The biggest rises were recorded by Antrim (2.78 days), Omagh (2.49 days) and Dungannon (2.38 days).

Today's report also states councils are the worst public bodies for paying bills on time.

Around one in five (19%) of the 295,000 invoices from suppliers were not paid within 30 days.

This failed to meet targets set by the Stormont finance minister; does not compare well with central government bodies where 97% of bills were paid within 30 days, and lags well behind the health and social care trusts and education and library boards.

Just over a third (37%) of invoices were settled within 10 days.

Newry and Mourne (12%), Antrim (14%) and Ballymoney (17%) paid the fewest number of invoices promptly.

Chief local government auditor Louise Mason said: "Whilst prompt payment performance has improved significantly, better performance in this area has the potential to significantly improve cash flow for local firms providing services to councils."

Today's report also notes several instances of poor procurement practices and drew attention to one unidentified council which spent £600,000 procuring leisure equipment even though it did not have a contract with a private company to provide the gear.

Ms Mason added: "Councils have identified that a lack of procurement expertise, or weaknesses within their procurement processes, represent significant risks that need addressed."

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