Belfast Telegraph

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton defends payments service

By Staff Reporter

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton defended the performance of Account NI after the Public Accounts Committee criticism.

He said: "I welcome the PAC's recognition of Account NI's performance against the prompt payment target as 'world class'.

"The NI Executive realised the need to pay its suppliers quickly and set a challenging target for prompt payment within 10 days. Account NI exceeds that target, with most payments being made within seven days.

"The figure of £9.73 quoted by the PAC is not an appropriate basis on which to make a valid comparison with other bodies and the report's analysis therefore is insufficiently robust for the PAC to reasonably draw such a definitive conclusion on cost. The direct staff cost per transaction in Account NI is around £2.05."

He said the PAC had overestimated potential savings.

"The annual cost of staff in the accounts payable function is in the region of £1.5 million, therefore it is impossible to make a saving of this magnitude.

"I always want to see services like Account NI improving continuously and my department is working towards improving the service, particularly through the process of benchmarking on a like-for-like basis, but I also expect the PAC to produce a solid case on which to base their conclusions."

He added: "Northern Ireland's shared services are an exemplar, not just in Europe but in the world."

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