Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has denied any conflict of interest over the fact that a health trust is renting properties from two of his companies.
It came after it was revealed that two companies of which he is a director lease property to the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, which is funded by his department.
There have now been calls for the matter to be investigated by the Assembly Committee on Standards and Privileges.
He holds directorships on three companies — North Down Hotels, North Down Construction and Scrabo Investments — which he has declared on the Stormont Members’ Register of Interest.
The two properties rented out to the trust are in Church Street and Regent Street, Newtownards. The Church Street property is owned by North Down Construction and the Regent Street property by North Down Hotels.
In a statement released last night Mr McGimpsey said: “The leases in question commenced many years before I took up the Health portfolio in the Northern Ireland Executive and my involvement with the relevant companies is carefully and accurately recorded in the Members’ Register of Interests.
“For the record, I have no involvement in the day to day running of the companies.”
In November 2005, Mr McGimpsey signed a five-year lease with the health trust for the Church Street premises, two years before he took on the Health Minister job. It is used for adult and children’s services.
The Regent Street property has been rented since 1993 to the trust as a health and care centre which houses up to 150 staff.
It is understood the annual income from the rental of these properties is in the tens of thousands of pounds.
Chairman of the Health and Social Services and Public safety Committee at Stormont Jim Wells said: “I believe there could be potential for a conflict of interest. The fact is that a company that he owns is earning a very substantial income from a health trust which his department runs.”