Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Nelson McCausland must issue full apology to Housing Executive contractor

By Colum Eastwood

Published 08/08/2014

There have been fresh calls for Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland to resign
There have been fresh calls for Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland to resign

Every week in my constituency office I see local families in real distress as a result of having to live in unsuitable housing. That is if they are lucky enough to have a home.

The most recent figures indicate that the number of people on the housing list has reached almost 42,000 across the north 3286 of whom are in Derry.

Even more families are in homes that require significant refurbishment. It is difficult to see how these families can have confidence in the ability of the Minister responsible, the DUP’s Nelson McCausland, to deliver for them when he appears to be more concerned with distracting the public with false accusations against contractors who were working on Housing Executive homes.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland somehow came up with a figure of £18 million which he claimed was overpaid to four contractors.

Now an independent report has shown that in fact, of the four companies accused by the Minister, only three were overpaid and the amount was £670,000. The accusations and subsequent suspensions in contracting work put jobs, including those of sub-contractors, in serious jeopardy.

Now that the truth of the matter has been revealed, instead of issuing a full apology to those four contractors who were falsely accused, including Dixon’s who were not overpaid at all, the Minister diminished his mistake by saying that he wanted to ‘move on’ and ‘put the experience behind us’.

This cannot be allowed to happen. The serious questions about how the Minister got it so wrong and continued to get it wrong still persist. A year ago it was claimed that the four companies identified as having overcharged dwarfed the scale of Red Sky overcharging.

In fact the opposite was true and Red Sky overcharging exceeded the overpayments to other contractors. Minister must reflect on his role in this debacle and take responsibility, explain how he came to the vastly overinflated figure of £18 million and make a full apology to the contractors and those who have been affected by the delays in work and do the decent thing and resign.

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