Belfast Telegraph

Housing Executive chief resigns amid repair row

The chairman of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive has strongly defended the organisation after tendering his resignation.

An independent report is expected to criticise the housing body about its handling of multimillion-pound repair contracts. There have been allegations of overcharging and sub-standard work.

Brian Rowntree said the organisation was working towards an agreed solution to its difficulties. He added neither he nor his board had been given the opportunity to address matters contained in that report.

"I do not believe that as a board we could have done any more in terms of the strategic direction of the organisation and the accountability framework around operational issues and inspections/reviews and investigations," he said. "Yes, we have internal difficulties, but we are working our way through an agreed solution process, along with the Department for Social Development."

In an email to the Executive's 3,000 staff, Mr Rowntree wrote of "personal stress" and "a challenging relationship" with the Department for Social Development.

His letter of resignation was sent to Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland on Friday afternoon.

Mr McCausland is preparing to reveal the outcome of an independent investigation into major maintenance contracts, which he had already told MLAs contained "alarming" findings.

Mr Rowntree said: "I can therefore confirm that on Friday, 28th June 2012, at 4.00pm, I tendered my resignation (to apply forthwith) to Minister Nelson McCausland MLA. I did not take this decision lightly but I need now to make available more personal quality time. This has not been an easy decision for me given my commitment and loyalty to this organisation."

Mr McCausland is due to make a statement to the Assembly on Tuesday about the contents of an independent report on contracts carried out by chartered accountancy firm ASM Howarth. It began its work in autumn 2011 following the termination of the Housing Executive's £7 million-a-year contract with construction firm Red Sky amid allegations of overcharging and sub-standard work.

Mr Rowntree said: "I believe that there are imminent statements which are about to be made by the minister within the privileged confines of the Assembly relating to events and reports which neither I as chairman nor my board have had an opportunity to address."

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