MLA's anger at use of ministerial cars
An SDLP MLA has called for a review of the use of ministerial cars, after an investigation revealed they were being used by civil servants while the executive wasn't functioning.
The BBC found that 600 journeys were made in the vehicles in six months - four of which were 300-mile trips to bring a civil servant from Derry to Belfast and back.
Eight Stormont departments have a ministerial car and a Freedom of Information request discovered that all, bar the Department of Finance, had been using the vehicles to transport civil servants on official business.
SDLP MLA John Dallat said: "The policy on ministerial cars requires urgent review. In 1998, minister cars were seen as an inducement to add prestige to a new and promising Assembly.
"Twenty years on with people living on the breadline, it's highly questionable whether Northern Ireland - the size of Yorkshire - requires a full fleet of ministerial cars.
"Provision should be made in contracts that when elections are called the cars are immediately moth-balled and area not used to run around civil servants."
A Department for Infrastructure spokeswoman said that in the past eight months, its car had been used 29 times on official business. She said it could be more cost-effective to use the department's car than to "rely on the staff's privately-owned vehicles and the payment of mileage expenses".
It was essential to retain the cars and their drivers to ensure the department was ready for the formation of an Executive, she said. "The alternative would leave the drivers and the cars paid for by the taxpayer sitting doing nothing," she added.