Belfast Telegraph

Land 'sold for fraction of top bid'

A site was sold by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for £20,000 after a bid worth almost £100,000 more was rejected, a report has said.

The decision was taken to go to closed offers last July, the review for the Department of Social Development (DSD) said. Closed bidding involves making an offer without knowing how much others are prepared to pay.

Much of that information was not relayed to the chief executive's business committee.

The Housing Executive said the decision to go to closed bids was not unusual and the drop in value coincided with falling prices generally.

The report said: "The review team have recommended that the (Housing Executive) board should further investigate this particular sale in order to obtain assurance that the sale was managed appropriately and to identify any lessons that can be learned."

The document said bids of up to £117,000 were received before a decision was made to go to closed bids when the highest bid was £10,000. The land was eventually sold for £20,000.

The review also said six plots of surplus land were sold by the Housing Executive with no approval from senior management.

The most expensive sale was worth £476,000 and there was no evidence of monitoring of processes which could have reassured managers that disposals had been completed in line with guidance, the report added.

It looked at sales approved in the past 18 months as part of a wider review of governance which concluded there were good structures in place.

The report said: "This review sampled 10 sales of land that had been declared as surplus completed within the last 18 months and found that in six cases, no approval for the actual sale had been obtained from either the Housing Executive's board or the chief executive's business committee."

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