Belfast Telegraph

£226,000 bike track built by man in relationship with CEO didn't go to tender and used just once

By Adrian Rutherford

A Motocross grand prix in Co Antrim - where a purpose-built £226,000 track was used just once - was severely criticised.

The NIEC promotion of the 2007 event at Moneyglass is branded "farcical" in today's report.

The event had been relocated from the previous year's venue at Draperstown and NIEC claimed this required the construction of a new race track.

A decision to build the new track was taken by chief executive Janice McAleese, without the board's consent.

The work was not competitively tendered, and no formal contract was ever put in place. Evidence provided to the committee revealed Ms McAleese was in a personal relationship with the contractor, Joe Cockburn.

MLAs said this was "a clear conflict".

Inspectors identified at least £226,000 of capital expenditure incurred in building the new track. Mr Cockburn received £120,000 of this, despite having had little experience in this area.

The committee was told that because of the manner in which the track was constructed, it was unlikely to ever have been suitable for its intended purpose.

The track was used once and has since been demolished.

MLAs were told the track did not have planning permission.

Contaminated soil was also deposited on the site during construction, leading to the Department of Environment issuing a closure order.

Nor did the NIEC sign a licence agreement with the landowners.

It meant that on the event day, NIEC had no legal right to use the lands on which the track was built.

A legal case was taken by the landowners and this has since been settled by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for £177,500, with legal costs of £84,000.

Today's report states: "It should be taken as read that basic processes - business cases, planning permissions and tendering - are always followed."

During the PAC's investigation it emerged that DCAL were fully aware a new track was being built as it had approved capital funding of £123,000.

DCAL admitted to the committee that no business case was submitted or requested to support the funding request and that DCAL failed to impose any conditions on the funding.

The issue of planning consent for the track was also overlooked.

The report states: "The request for capital funding, from an organisation primarily involved in providing grant funding to event organisers, should have set alarm bells ringing in DCAL and been robustly challenged.

"The committee can only conclude that this is another occasion when DCAL was asleep at the wheel.

"DCAL's failures have meant that the quarter of a million pounds of public money spent on the track, which should have been an asset to Northern Ireland, was in fact spent on a track with a life span of one day."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph