Belfast Telegraph

Agency to fight loss of Invest NI start-up role

By Heather McGarrigle

The agency which lost its role in delivering Invest NI's start-up business programme looks set to begin a challenge to the decision.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday that Enterprise NI had lost out in the tender process for the Go For It programme to KPMG and Scottish Agency The Go Group.

It is thought the board of Enterprise NI met on Wednesday to discuss the group's options and is due to meet again today to vote on a challenge against the award.

The bidder decision is now subject to a 10-day 'cooling off' period during which unsuccessful bidders can choose to challenge Invest NI's choice.

One source close to the organisation said it was taking legal advice and was likely to either launch a challenge or demand an investigation into how the tender process was managed.

Enterprise NI is an umbrella organisation for Northern Ireland's local enterprise agencies (LEAs), who deliver the group's business contracts, including the Go For It programme. There are worries the loss of the start-up business programme contract will lead to job losses.

There are fewer than 10 staff at Enterprise NI's Limavady headquarters, but over 200 people employed in total throughout its member LEAs. Each agency has a dedicated Go For It programme co-ordinator.

A manager at one of the LEAs who did not wish to be named said the Scottish consortium would not have the local knowledge needed to provide tailored business support to Northern Ireland communities.

He said: "There are 32 enterprise agencies working in all the rural areas and the tough neighbourhoods of Northern Ireland, and they have been for 22 years.

"They are not-for-profit organisations and many people work on a voluntary basis.

"It's that social capital that will be lost."

Enterprise NI and Invest NI did not wish to comment.

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